Tapeworms are flat worms that reside in an individual’s digestive tract. Though disturbing to think of, they generally do not cause any severe issues.
Tapeworm infections aren’t typical in the United States and, when they do take place, they’re generally easy to treat.
Tapeworm infection takes place when your child ingests the egg or larvae of a tapeworm. There are 3 types of tapeworms that commonly impact humans. They are discovered in beef, fish and pork. The larvae of beef and fish tapeworms are frequently directly consumed by eating undercooked, polluted meat. This differs from pork tapeworm eggs, which are spread through food and water sources that have actually been polluted with the feces of infected pigs.
Tapeworms are parasites. As you most likely keep in mind from biology class, parasites are organisms that reside in, or on, other organisms (called “hosts”). Parasites take their nutrients from the host, sometimes denying the host of nutrition.
Tapeworms get into the body when someone eats or drinks something that’s infected with a worm or its eggs. As soon as inside the body, the tapeworm head attaches to the inner wall of the intestinal tracts. The tapeworm feeds off the food that the host is digesting. It uses this nutrition to grow.
Tapeworms are made up of sectors, and they get longer by growing brand-new sectors. Each segment can reproduce by making thousands of eggs. Since tapeworms can have more than three thousand sectors, that’s a lot of chance to spread out. They can grow to more than 82 feet (25 meters) and live as long as 30 years.
New sectors grow at the head of the tapeworm, pressing older segments to the end of the line, where they break off. These segments, along with the eggs they contain, lose consciousness of the gastrointestinal tract in the host’s feces (poop). If the infected feces aren’t gotten rid of in a sanitary method– like down a flush toilet– they can get into the soil or water.
Tapeworm segments can live for months in the environment, awaiting a host to come along. Animals like cows or pigs that eat turf or nose around in the soil can get tapeworm segments or eggs. When the tapeworm reaches the animal’s intestinal tract, the attach-and-grow cycle starts once again.
Most of the time, individuals get tapeworm infections from consuming food that’s polluted and unprepared effectively:
- Tapeworms can spread when someone consumes or drinks food or water that’s contaminated with infected feces. This is one reason tapeworm infections are uncommon in places that have excellent sanitation. Flush toilets, sewage system systems, and water treatment plants help keep feces from the water and food supply.
- People can pass tapeworm eggs on to others when they don’t clean their hands after using the bathroom.
- Tapeworm eggs in feces can easily spread out into food or onto surfaces like doorknobs. If you ever require another need to get your kids to wash their hands, this might do it!
- Kids can get tapeworms from eating meat or fish that hasn’t been prepared enough to eliminate the tapeworm or its eggs.
Most kids who have a tapeworm infection don’t feel anything. It can take months or years to discover any symptoms. Some of the things a child may complain of are:
- mild queasiness
- abdominal pain
- weight loss
Kids with a tapeworm infection might feel a piece of the worm coming out through the rectum. If your child has an infection, you might see a tapeworm section in his/her feces.
There are different types of tapeworms. One (fish tapeworm) can cause anemia because it soaks up vitamin B12, which helps make red blood cells. This can lead kids to feel tired or brief of breath. More severe cases of vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to feelings of numbness and other signs of damage to the nerve system. Curing the tapeworm infection generally makes vitamin B12 levels get back to regular.
The eggs of another kind of tapeworm (pork tapeworm) can hatch into larvae in the intestine. These larvae go through the digestive tract wall and enter the bloodstream. From there they can take a trip to various parts of the body (such as muscles, eyes, or the brain), where they form cysts. This disease is known as cysticercosis (sis-tuh-sir-KO-sus). It is uncommon in the United States, however common in numerous developing countries.
With cysticercosis, kids might establish:
- lumps under the skin
- seizures, if the cysts are in the brain
- vision issues, if the cysts are in the eyes
- an unusual heart beat, if cysts are in the heart
- weak point or problem walking, if cysts remain in the spine
Eating polluted pork can result in a tapeworm infection in the intestinal tracts, but it won’t turn into cysticercosis. To develop cysticercosis, somebody would need to swallow the eggs of the pork tapeworm, and these eggs aren’t discovered in the meat itself. They are discovered in feces and around the rectum.
Cysticercosis happens as a result of eating food that has been polluted with feces. It can be any type of food– all it takes is for that food to come into contact with feces.
When to Call a Doctor
Call a doctor if you see worms in your child’s feces or if he or she has abdominal pain or other symptoms that may recommend a tapeworm infection. You’ll likewise wish to call a doctor if your child shows signs of infection after traveling to a part of the world that does not have good sanitation.
Call a doctor right away if your child has masses or lumps under the skin and develops a fever, headache, or any of the other symptoms of cysticercosis. If your child has seizures or trouble moving, walking, or talking, go to the emergency clinic right now.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To detect a tapeworm infection, physicians usually take a look at a stool sample for tapeworm sectors. Doctors might have to get a number of samples because tapeworms don’t constantly appear in every sample.
Physicians can easily treat a tapeworm infection with prescription anti-parasite drugs. Often, just one dose suffices.
Tapeworm infection isn’t really generally severe and most kids have no complications. However in a couple of unusual cases, large tapeworms can block up a child’s intestines, appendix, bile duct, or pancreatic duct. This can lead to things like appendicitis or inflamed gall bladder– not pleasant, but they can be treated.
Cysticercosis is a much more major condition. If a doctor believes an individual has cysticercosis, he or she might advise a CT scan (also called CAT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to check for cysts. Medical professionals also may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs, like steroids, for cysticercosis infections. If a child has seizures, physicians might recommend anti-epilepsy medications.
If a child gets hydrocephalus because of cysticercosis, doctors may put in a shunt to drain pipes excess fluid. Surgeons will remove cysts if they pose a hazard to the eyes, liver, lungs, heart, or other organs.
You can safeguard your household from tapeworm infections by constantly following these ideas:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water, specifically after utilizing the bathroom and before touching food. Teach your kids to do the very same.
- Thoroughly cook meat until juices run clear and the centers are no longer pink.
- Cook fish till it is solid in color (no longer clear) and flakes when separated with a fork.
- Freeze meat for 24 Hr prior to preparing to kill tapeworm eggs.
Here are some things you ought to do if you remain in a location where tapeworm infections prevail:
- Wash and cook all fruits and vegetables with safe water.
- Prevent raw or undercooked meat and fish, raw vegetables and fruits that you aren’t able to peel yourself, and any food from street vendors.
- Drink only water boiled for a least a minute, bottled water (carbonated is more reliable than regular), or other drinks in bottles and cans. Wipe the top of cans and bottles before you drink from them or use a straw. Prevent fountain drinks and ice.
Most tapeworm infections are harmless. But it’s always a smart idea to take your child to a doctor to get checked out if he or she has symptoms.