Parasites are the animals who extract their nutrition from its host. Common parasites that can live off humans are pinworms, tapeworms, ascaris, scabies mites, etc. Ascaris is a type of round worm that can grow upto 35 cms in the human body, causing ascariasis infection. They grow and reproduce inside our body. It is the most common type of parasite found in humans. If both male and female worms are present in your body, they can reproduce and the larvae can leave the body in our feces. This disease is more common in tropical and subtropical regions as compared to colder climates. These worms can enter our body through the food passage. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Monica Mahajan, Medical Director, Max Multi Speciality Hospital, about the symptoms, causes and treatment of ascariasis infection.
Ascariasis infection symptoms
In most cases, these parasites have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. In mild ascariasis the symptoms are very common but if there is heavy infestation of these worms, it can also lead to various complications. Here are the symptoms of ascariasis infection:
1. Stomach pain
Infestation of worms inside human body can cause pain in stomach. It can range from being mild to severe as per the intensity of infestation. It some cases, it can block a part of intestine and cause excruciating pain.
2. Vomiting and nausea
These worms can cause nausea and vomiting in patients. It happens in thr blockage in the gastrointestinal tract. It can also lead to unexplained chronic nausea and loss of appetite.
3. Loss of appetite
Worms start to live and grow inside your body. Once they increase in number, it can lead to loss of appetite and weight loss. These parasites absorb all the nutrition from our intestines and make us weak. It can also lead to retarded growth in children.
4. Persistent cough
Eggs and larvae of ascaris can travel through our blood stream to other body parts like lungs. Larvae starts to grow inside the lung cavity and causes pneumonia and asthma like symptoms including persistent coughing and breathing issues. These larvae can travel to throat and back to your intestines and cause more infestation.
5. Abdominal swelling
In extreme cases of infestation, patient might experience a protruding belly along with pain and tenderness in that area. It can happen because these worms damage the intestinal walls and may cause infection in appendix and bloating.
6. Worm in stools
These helminths can live inside a human body for upto two years. If these worms are present in your intestine, you might notice that it is excreted through feces. It confirms the presence of worms in your intestines.
Ascariasis infection causes
Most common cause of ascariasis is improper hygiene practices, like playing in mud, improper disposal of feces and contact with feces of an infected person. It can spread if we eat raw fruits and vegetables without washing them properly or even if we use human feces as fertilizer. The eggs of these worms can survive in extreme weather conditions and still be alive. These diseases are more common in kids below 10 years because they are more likely to come in contact with infected soil.
Ascariasis can be diagnosed by examining your stool sample, blood sample or various imaging tests like ultrasounds, CT scan and MRI. Stool and blood samples can confirm the presence of round worms in th body, but imaging techniques offer a more detailed image of your organs and the worms present inside your body.
These imaging techniques can also help the doctor to image the amount of inflammation on the internal walls of our small intestine. If you notice a worm or larvae in your stools or cough, you must save the specimen to give it to your doctors so that he can provide you with accurate diagnosis.
Ascariasis infection prevention and treatment
One can easily prevent such diseases if you practice good hygiene and proper sanitization. You must be more cautious if you are visiting rural areas. You should keep in mind that you clean your hands and food properly before eating. You should either drink packaged water or boil it for at least 20 minutes before consumption. You should also make sure that the area where you prepare your food is clean and doesn't come in contact with soil. You should not defecate in open areas and farms. Even if you get to know that human feces is used as a fertilizer, you can also peel the vegetables for a safer side.
Treatment of ascaris depends upon the severity of infection. Most of these infections can be treated through medicines but if required surgery can also be a successful alternative. Here are some treatment methods:
1. Anthelmintic medications
Anthelmintic medications are those drugs which are used to remove parasites from the body. These medications are given for 1-3 days irrespective of the type of the worms. These medications are effective but might also have some side effects like diarrhoea, nausea, fever and dizziness.
If the infestation is heavy, the damage is also more severe. Sometimes a surgery is needed if these parasites block the passage of our organs like intestine, pancreas and bile duct. Need of surgery also arises if there is a hole in the digestive passage. It can lead to fatal infections if left untreated.
If we follow basic hygiene we can save ourselves from many diseases. It is very important that you teach young children to be more hygienic. You should definitely complete the entire course of medicine so that these worms are completely removed from your system.
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