It's time to deworm your kidsMonday, August 02, 2021
SMALL children enjoy the outdoors, which increases their risk of exposure to the soil and sometimes dirty environments, which are a haven for various organisms, including parasitic intestinal worms.
Second to this, however, is their love for sticking their fingers into their mouths, which creates a perfect gateway for these parasites to wiggle their way inside their little bodies.
General practitioner Dr Annetta Wishart said that these factors combined is the single most important reason why the practice among many Jamaican parents to religiously deworm their children at least once yearly should be encouraged as the process has a positive effect on the child's health and development.
“Deworming a child essentially is administering an anthelmintic drug to him or her to expel worms from the body. This is a critical process because intestinal worm infestations and associated infections may result in, among other things, nutrients not being absorbed into the body, anaemia and undernutrition,” Dr Wishart explained.
The family doctor said that various worms can affect children, including hookworms, flukes, and tapeworms. However, the most common parasitic intestinal worm that affects children are pinworms, which are also referred to as threadworms. They are less likely to cause significant harm, but they can be an itchy nuisance and may easily transfer to the entire family.
To deworm young children, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the annual or biannual administration of a single dose of albendazole (400 mg) or mebendazole (500 mg), which many of us know as Zentel, for children from ages 24 months up. A half-dose of albendazole (ie 200 mg), however, is recommended for children younger than 24 months old.
Dr Wishart said that parents should not wait for signs of an intestinal worm infestation to administer worm medicine to children since the condition sometimes present with non-specific symptoms and/or symptoms that are not often immediately evident.
“The associated symptoms of intestinal infection are wide-ranging, and you might not be immediately able to identify intestinal worms as the culprit, allowing them time to infest and cause damage to the body. In some patients, you may notice, sudden (unintentional) weight loss, stomach pain, loose motions, weakness, fever and vomiting,” Dr Wishart outlined.
Other symptoms that may indicate the presence of intestinal worms include:
•Anaemia (this usually develops if left untreated for a while)
•Malabsorption (this occurs when the worms that have infested the body competes with it for nutrients, resulting in insufficient amounts in the body)
•Stunted growth (this is an effect of the body being supplied with insufficient amounts of nutrients)
•Redness and itching around the vaginal area in girls. If the culprits are threadworms, some girls may develop, or experience, worsening of vulvovaginitis
•Rashes on the buttocks — accompanied by a lot of itching
•Constipation or diarrhoea.
Failing to treat or deworm your child may not be life-threatening, but it can lead to several clinical problems.
“Left untreated, in severe cases, some of these intestinal worms can form cysts in the liver and lungs, leading to pneumonia and other neurological conditions,” Dr Wishart advised.
1. Since adults can also get worms, adults should also deworm when they are administering worm medicine to their children, especially since threadworms spread so easily from person to person. This will reduce the chances of reinfection.
2. It might be difficult to discourage your child from scratching their bottom, but try and encourage washing if he or she scratches, to reduce the chances of egg transfer to the skin or objects they or others might come in contact with.
3. Always groom your child's fingernails. The shorter they are, the better.
4. Discourage nail biting and thumb sucking in your children.
5. Ensure your child washes his or her hands thoroughly, after using the toilet.
6. Sanitise areas in the house that family members are frequently in contact with — this includes surfaces and appliances.
7. Use hot water when washing your child's bedding, towels, and toys.
While, for the most part, administering the recommended dose of an anthelmintic drug to your child will expel the worms and relieve your child of associated symptoms, there are instances in which you may need to take your child to see the doctor.
“Some occasions might warrant a check-up with your child's family doctor or paediatrician, this includes when they have severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, low energy levels or a large worm. This way your child can be checked and monitored to ensure that there are no other complications,” Dr Wishart advised.
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