Ascariasis: A Rapidly Growing Disease Among Children
Ascaris are parasite worms that resemble earthworms. These host in human’s small intestines and cause intestinal infections and a few other diseases. These worms grow 6-13 inches in length, and 0.5-1 inch in width and females grow comparatively larger than males. An adult female lays 150000-220000 eggs per day, which are passed out with the faeces where they mature in 2-3 weeks, depending on the environmental conditions favourable. It is white, pink, dim white in colour and is tapered at both ends.
Ascariasis is an intestinal infection caused by the parasite Ascaris. It is the most common type of worm infection found worldwide. The highest prevalence is in tropical and subtropical regions and in areas where sanitation is poor or where human or pig excreta is used as fertiliser. According to the World Health Organisation, about 10% of the developing world is infected with intestinal worms – a large percentage of which is caused by Ascaris. Worldwide, severe Ascaris infections cause approximately 60 000 deaths per year, mainly in children.
Although ascariasis occurs at any age, kids are more susceptible to it as they tend to put everything they touch in their mouths with uncleaned hands and by consuming unwashed fruits and vegetables.
After the eggs are swallowed, they hatch into larvae in the intestines where from these travel to the liver and then to the lungs. During this travel, coughing may occur. The larvae then climb to the throat and finally returns to the small intestine where they grow, mate and lay eggs and live for up to two years and are then discharged through stool.
Mild infections show some signs which include;
Coughing, loss of appetite, fever, worms in stool, wheezing (shortness of breath).
Severe infections can cause acute symptoms;
Vomiting, nausea, irregular stools, diarrhoea, weight loss, growth impairment in children due to malabsorption, intestinal blockade (Aam Gand), liver and gallbladder and stomach pains with a hard belly.
Intestinal blockade occurs particularly in kids for their intestines are small.
Higher the number of worms, the more severe the symptoms get.
Treatment and Medicine
Pyrantel pamoate, Mebendazole, Albendazole, Ivermectin, Piperazine Citrate, Levamisole are the drugs of choice for treatment. The procedure takes three days. However, in the worst case scenario, surgery is needed if worms have entirely blocked the intestines.
The diagnosis is usually made by taking a stool sample and using a microscope to look for the presences of Ascaris eggs.
Ascariasis is a non-contagious disease and can be prevented by the following measures:
1. Avoid contact with the soil that could be contaminated with human faeces.
2: Wash hands with soap before handling or eating food, and after going to the toilet.
3: Eat thoroughly cooked foods and avoid half cooked ones.
4: Eat well-washed fruits and vegetables.
5: Keep your surrounding clean and do not defecate in the open.