Worms: Threadworm, pinworm, ringworm, hookworm, roundworm and tapeworm
Worms are one of the most common childhood conditions and are usually easily dealt with by over-the-counter medication. While there are many types of worms that can infect humans, the most likely culprit in children in New Zealand is the threadworm, a type of roundworm.
Types of worms include:
- Pinworm – another name for threadworm
- Ringworm – not a parasitic infection at all but a persistent fungal infection
- Hookworm – rare in New Zealand
- Whipworm – rare in New Zealand
- Tapeworm – occurs in New Zealand, particularly in sheep farming areas
- Roundworm – while rare in New Zealand, this is the most common parasitic infection in the world
What causes threadworms?
Threadworms are spread by eating the eggs of the worm, which results in infestation. Because threadworms live in the intestines, they can be found in your child’s poo. Threadworms are most likely to be spread to and by children who don’t wash their hands thoroughly, because of their tendency to put their fingers in their mouths after scratching other body parts!
Are threadworms serious?
Mild to moderate threadworm infections aren’t serious, but if your child ingests hundreds of eggs, she may suffer from:
- Urinary tract infections
- Loss of weight
- Infections in other parts of the body
If left unattended, many kids who are infected with threadworms outgrow the infection when all of the adult worms leave the body.
Can I prevent threadworms?
Threadworms are spread through poor hygiene, so teach your child to thoroughly wash her hands and clean under her fingernails. Threadworm eggs can survive for several weeks on clothing, bedding, and surfaces, so keep your house clean.
How do I know if my child has threadworms?
A few weeks after threadworm eggs are ingested, adult threadworms leave the intestinesand lay eggs around your child’s anus, causing your child to experience itching and making her scratch the affected area. You may also notice adult threadworms in your child’s poo or threadworm eggs around her anus.
How do I treat threadworms?
Many mild threadworm infections go away without you even knowing that your child has been infected. Once the female threadworms lay their eggs, they leave your child’s body. As long as your child does not re-infect herself, she will outgrow the original infection. There are over-the-counter medications to treat threadworm infections, but you should consult your doctor before using them. Prevent re-infection by teaching and practicing good hygiene. You can use nappy rash cream to ease itching around the anus.
Should I call the doctor?
Mainly, you can sort out a threadworm infection with a trip to the chemist, but if you are concerned or unsure, consult your child’s doctor for confirmation of the infection and a treatment plan.
Roundworm eggs are inadvertently eaten by people, and then the eggs hatch in the intestines and live there. Roundworm infections, called ascariasis, are among the most common parasitic infections in the world. You can’t get roundworms from other people, only from contaminated food and water. Infections are most often picked up when people travel to underdeveloped countries.
What causes ascariasis?
Ascariasis infections are caused by intestinal roundworms . People become infected when they swallow the eggs. Eggs are found in soil or in produce grown in infected soil. Unlike most other worm infections, you can’t get ascariasis from another person – infections occur as the result of swallowing contaminated food and water. These infections are most commonly picked up in developing countries.
Is roundworm serious?
Roundworm infections can be serious. If the worms aren’t treated, they can migrate to the lungs or to the liver, where they can damage these vital organs.
How can I prevent roundworm infections?
Ensure that when you travel, you are careful to drink only bottled water and eat only hot foods. Wash your hands often and thoroughly, and teach your kids to wash their hands for at least ten seconds.
How do I know if my child has ascariasis?
Some people never know they have a roundworm infection. Sometimes, mums see worms in their child’s poo and that’s the first sign that they get that their child has been infected. Diarrhoea, sometimes bloody, is the most common symptom. In severe infections, you might find worms or eggs in your child’s nose or mouth. If the infection has spread to her lungs, your child might have coughing, wheezing, or trouble breathing. Severe intestinal infestations might include vomiting, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
How do I treat ascariasis?
The most common treatment for ascariasis is anti-parasite medication. Sometimes more than one course of medication is necessary to clear up the infestation. In very severe cases, surgery might be necessary to repair the damage caused by the infection and to remove lingering worms.
Should I call the doctor?
You should always call the doctor if your child has persistent diarrhoea and is losing weight, especially if you have recently been travelling overseas. If your child has other symptoms of a roundworm infection, your doctor can perform tests even if you don’t find any worms in your child’s poo. You should call the doctor right away if your child shows signs of a roundworm infection of the lungs.
What you need to know about worms
- Threadworm infections are the most common human worm infection in New Zealand.
- Threadworms are easily treated.
- Roundworm infections are treated with anti-parasite medication.
- Ascariasis is caused by a roundworm infection.
- Teach your children good hygiene practices to protect them from worm infections.
- Most worm varieties are not common in New Zealand.
Find more relevant articles and information about parasitic infections and worms
- Find out more about parasitic infections
- Find information on giardiasis
- Avoid head lice
- Know what malaria is
- What is toxocariasis
Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand’s parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.
Last revised: Tuesday, 19 January 2010
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.