Intestinal Worms & Parasites

Information on human intestinal worms and parasites in children and adults.

Select a Topic

  1. What are Intestinal Worms & Parasites?
  2. Diagnosing Intestinal Worms & Parasites
  3. What Causes Intestinal Worms & Parasites?
  4. Help for Intestinal Worms & Parasites

What are Intestinal Worms & Parasites?

Intestinal worms & parasites live in the gastrointestinal tract. There are two main groups of intestinal worms – protozoa (organisms with one cell only) and helminths (worms with many cells). Protozoa multiplies in the human body. The most common protozoa include cryptosporidium, microsporidia and isospora that often affect HIV-infected persons. The most common helminths include tapeworm, hookworms, pinworms, roundworms, threadworms, whipworm and giardia.

These parasites attack the body through the consumption of contaminated food and water, through the nose or skin, poor hygiene habits, sexual conduct or transmitting agents such as mosquitoes. Children tend to be very susceptible to intestinal worms but adults may also be affected.

Diagnosing Intestinal Worms & Parasites

When food is not digested properly, it lies in a semi-digestive state in our intestines (bowels). A multitude of ‘good’ bacteria gather in the intestine to help digest the food further. A common by-product of this fermentation process is intestinal gas. Further gastro-intestinal disorders can result from irritation of the bowel, due to food intolerance or other irritants – and cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), impacted stool (constipation) and watery stool (diarrhea).

Symptoms and signs

Some people do not experience any symptoms although intestinal worms & parasites are living in their intestines for years. The most common symptoms and signs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomitting
  • Gas or stomach bloating
  • Abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin rashes

 

What causes Intestinal Worms & Parasites?

Intestinal worms can develop as a result of the following factors and these include:

  • Consumption of food and water that has been contaminated with human or animal feces
  • Eating raw or undercooked meats such as pork, beef, lamb or venison
  • Poor hygiene habits such as washing or bathing infrequently, not washing your hands before eating or preparing food after using the bathroom
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Livestock such as cattle or pigs may become infected by been exposed to contaminated pastures
  • Traveling frequently to developing countries where there are poor sanitary conditions

Help for Intestinal Worms & Parasites

Depending on the type of worm and the severity of the infections, medications such as Vermox or albendazole may be prescribed. If one person in your family has been infected, it is generally recommended that the whole family be treated to eliminate the worms effectively.

Practicing good hygiene habits is imperative to prevent intestinal worms. Eating a healthy diet that incorporates fresh fruit and vegetables as well drinking purified water daily helps to boost the immune system. 

More Information on Intestinal Worms

Tips to prevent intestinal worms
  • Practice good hygiene habits and teach your children to wash their hands thoroughly before eating, after using the bathroom and playing outside or with pets
  • Incorporate more fiber into your diet and avoid eating refined and sugary foods
  • Drink purified water
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables, especially before cooking
  • Cook all meat and fish properly and avoid eating them undercooked
  • Cook meat thoroughly at a temperature of 150F to kill tapeworm eggs or larvae
  • Keep your living area clean by wiping down all surfaces and vacuuming dust particles regularly
  • Wash bed linen in hot water if you or your children have worms and change them regularly
  • Wear shoes when walking on grass or soil as some worms can penetrate the skin
  • Avoid eating raw produce when traveling in endemic areas – wash and cook fruit and vegetables with filtered water before eating