- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Pinworms and Other Parasites in Human Beings (With Pictures)
Worms That Are Parasites on Humans
Most worms that infect humans reside in the intestinal tract. They spread through poor sanitation, or through consuming food or drinking water contaminated with worm eggs.
- Small white worms shorter than 1/2 inch.
- The most common parasitic worm in much of the world.
- Pinworms afflict mostly children. Kids at play can pick up pinworm eggs in their fingernails from the ground and from the toys they handle.
- The eggs can likewise be picked up from toilet seats, bedding, clothing and other objects. They can stay on a child's skin for several hours.
- They can survive for up to three weeks on clothes, bedding and toys.
- Without their knowing, children swallow some of the eggs that they carry, especially if they are thumbsuckers or have the habit of putting their fingers in their mouth. Lighter eggs become airborne and can be inhaled and swallowed.
- Pinworm eggs inside the human body reside in the upper part of the intestine until they hatch.
- After they hatch, the worms, which look like tiny straight pins, move down the length of the intestine.
- At night, while the afflicted child sleeps, the female pinworm comes out from the rectum to lay thousand of eggs around the anus, causing skin irritation and severe anal itching.
- Itching triggers scratching the anus, which results in some of the eggs being transferred to the hands and fingernails; if they are carried to the mouth and swallowed, the cycle of infestation occurs anew.
- Enter the body as eggs carried in contaminated water, food or soil-contaminated hands.
- Some may get into the body through the skin. Adult roundworms look like earthworms and are sometimes found in the stool or vomit.
- They grow in the intestines from one millimeter to one meter long.
- Roundworm infestation is more common in places with warm and tropical climates.
- Roundworm infestation, known as ascariasis, affects one billion people worldwide.
- Signs and symptoms of ascariasis include coughing, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhea, blood in the stool, weight loss, fatigue and presence of worms in vomit or stool.
- Infect about 25% of the world's population.
- The eggs leave the body with the stool and hatch two days later in the soil.
- The larvae enter the human body through the skin, usually through the soles of children and others who go barefoot.
- They transfer to the lungs and are coughed up and swallowed.
- They then take up residence in the small intestine where they attach themselves to its wall and feed on the person's blood.
- A large infestation of hookworms can cause iron-deficiency anemia and abdominal pain.
- Their life cycle is similar to that of hookworms.
- They can cause coughing, shortness of breath and even pneumonia when lodged in the lungs.
- In the small intestine, they can produce abdominal pain and severe diarrhea.
- Tapeworms are flatworms that affect humans when they eat undercooked pork, beef or fish that contain cysts of larvae.
- These cysts develop into their adult stage in the intestinal tract.
- They may grow up to 30 feet in length.
- Their bodies are made up of hundreds of segments called proglottids which contain eggs.
- Each mature segment which contain both male and female reproductive structures breaks off from the tapeworm posterior and passed in the stool to begin a new life cycle.
- Most tapeworm infections are asymptomatic; others may cause anemia, diarrhea and pain.
- Worms are treated primarily with medications called antihelminthics.
- Pinworms, hookworms and roundworms are usually eradicated with pyrantel pamoate (antiminth) or mebendazole (vermox).
- A single dose is effective, but a follow-up dose is recommended to eliminate all eggs and larvae.
- If a child in the family is afflicted with pinworms, his siblings and the adults who live with him should also be dewormed.
- Tapeworms can be eliminated with niclosamide (niclocide) or praziquantel (Biltricide).
- All of these medications should be taken in consultation with your family doctor.
Treatment and Prevention
- Clean the entire house on the same day that medication is taken.
- Wash towels, face towels, bed linens and clothing in hot water, using a strong detergent and bleach.
- Clean and disinfect the bathroom.
- Sterilize, disinfect and rinse thoroughly toys and other objects.
- Trim fingernails.
- Wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet.
- Wash hands with soap and water before and after eating.
- Don't go barefoot outdoors.
- Cook beef, pork and fish until they are well-done.