Threadworm is one of the most common worms to infect humans. These tiny little critters can be responsible for a lot of discomfort in our kids and in adults as well. From an itchy bottom, to abdominal pain, irritability or behavioural changes, loss of appetite and weight loss, threadworm can be playing a part. Things can tend to get worse at night too and worms should always be considered when your child is having trouble sleeping, is restless at night, is suffering nightmares and even in cases of bed wetting.
Disturbing Worm facts:
* One single mature female threadworm can lay over 11000 eggs in an evening!
* Threadworm do not only infest the intestines, but can easily migrate into the female genito-urinary system (female worms move around 6cm an hour!) . This can cause chronic vulvo and vaginal itching, irritation and redness in females (including little girls), especially at night.
* Research has also uncovered that chronic threadworm infestation can actually be a cause of appendicitis and can also mimic the pain of acute appendicitis (yet the appendix is actually unaffected)- ouch!
* While the research isn't conclusive yet, threadworm may also be a vector (carries it into the body) for the parasite Dientamoeba fragilis (a common gut parasite responsible for a variety of symptoms including loose stools, abdominal pain and nausea).
* Beyond vulvo and vaginal itching, chronic worm infestations can also be a contributing factor in menstrual irregularities, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, incontinence, Bartholin cysts and even general peritonitis!
Now if the above doesn't churn your stomach I'm not sure what will!
So what can we do about it?
Treatment options are varied, and the best choice for you or your child will depend on the type of worms, and whether it is a minor infestation, or a chronic recurrent infestation.
There's a role here for the over the counter worming medication in serious infestations. For best results make sure you follow the dosages as per the packets instructions and treat the whole family. Retreat the again in 14 days, and ensure wash bedding, pajamas and soft toys, trim fingernails and talk to your children about hand washing and hygeine. Keep in mind something as simple as shaking the sheets while changing can disperse the eggs in to the air so tread gently.
Home help for worms:
An old traditional remedy for expelling worms is carrot juice. Even a salad of raw grated carrots may be helpful, not to mention yummy! Keep in mind it doesn't kill the worms, but is believed to make the intestinal environment less desirable to the worms, helping flush them out. It certainly can't hurt to add it in if your child or family are suffering recurrent worms.
Garlic is a very powerful worm remedy although it's not always easy to get kids to take it. Freshly crushed is best and you can mix it in a teaspoon of honey and a little water and take it, followed up with some food, smoothie or something they enjoy eating to take the taste away. For those who can swallow capsules, you can crush a clove or two of garlic and pop into empty capsules and take that way. Otherwise try including it in salad dressings, homemade hommus and dips or adding a little to your carrot juice.
The humble pumpkin seed, or pepita, is also reported to kill worms in animal studies (although human studies are lacking). Again, this is a simple thing to add in to your diet and considering their nutritional benefits there's no loss in giving it a go!
Seeking deeper help
If you're following all the recommended hygiene practices, have integrated the dietary suggestion and you're still battling with worms I'd suggest you to come on in to the clinic for a deeper look. Often I find working on balancing gut health with probiotics and prebiotics and potentially herbs traditionally used for worming can make a big difference. Emerging research is also showing a role for chondroitin sulfate in eliminating long standing or recurrent worm infestations- a rather novel approach!
When it comes to treating worms a holistic approach is often needed and combining many of the above suggestions (personalised and dosed to your specific needs of course) can be the key to dealing with the reoccurring drama of those annoying worms.