The round worms are the most common worms to be seen in a child’s alimentary system. It is a long, smooth and white worm about 20 cm. long and can be seen in the child’s stool. Infection occurs when eggs of the worm are swallowed through contaminated water. The eggs lodge in the child’s intestines and hatch into larva.
These then enter the bloodstream and pass to the lungs and then to the stomach, where they grow into adult worms. This adult can reproduce itself, producing eggs which are again expelled through the stools.
Sign and Symptoms
Depending on the load of the infection, the child shows different symptoms. When there are many worms present in the stomach, the abdomen protrudes, and sometimes the balled worms can even be felt through the external skin. When the worms swim about in the stomach, they may move upwards, in which case the child may vomit worms.
When the larvae pass through the lungs, they may cause local irritation, producing a dry cough especially at night. This may be accompanied by a feeling of heat when in bed.
When worm infestation is heavy, the worms may consume the nourishment needed by the child and cause malnutrition in the child. The child may initially have an increased appetite because of nutritional deprivation, but will later decrease food intake because of inertia and chronic stomach pain.
Severe worm infestation will cause increasing lack of energy in the child, manifested by drowsiness. The worms interfering with food digestion and absorption in the intestines will cause deficiencies of Vitamin B2 in particular. This will cause “angular stomatitis” i.e., cracking of the corners of the mouth. Sometimes, this will be the earliest sign of worm infestation.
Get the child’s stool tested to find out if there is worm infection. Since the life cycle of the round worm extends over two weeks, the child will have to be given medication twice in the fortnight so that the adult worm as well as the larva are contained. Mepacrins is very effective.
Preventive measures are the same as for diarrhea described in an earlier sub-section. General hygiene is the best way of preventing worm infestation.