Tapeworms are flat worms that live in a person’s digestion tract. Though distressing to think about, they usually do not cause any serious issues.
Tapeworm infections aren’t typical in the United States and, when they do occur, they’re usually easy to treat.
Tapeworms are parasites. As you probably remember from biology class, parasites are organisms that reside in, or on, other organisms (called “hosts”). Parasites take their nutrients from the host, often 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. Once 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 absorbing. It uses this nutrition to grow.
Tapeworms are made up of sections, and they get longer by growing brand-new sections. Each sector can replicate by making thousands of eggs. Considering that tapeworms can have more than three thousand sections, that’s a lot of opportunity to spread. They can grow to more than 82 feet (25 meters) and live as long as Thirty Years.
New sectors grow at the head of the tapeworm, pressing older sectors to the end of the line, where they break off. These sectors, in addition to the eggs they include, pass out of the gastrointestinal tract in the host’s feces (poop). If the infected feces aren’t disposed of in a hygienic method– like down a flush toilet– they can get into the soil or water.
Tapeworm sectors can live for months in the environment, waiting for a host to come along. Animals like cows or pigs that eat lawn or nose around in the soil can pick up tapeworm sections or eggs. When the tapeworm reaches the animal’s intestinal tract, the attach-and-grow cycle starts again.
Most of the time, individuals get tapeworm infections from eating food that’s polluted and not prepared correctly:
- Tapeworms can spread when somebody consumes or consumes food or water that’s polluted with infected feces. This is one reason tapeworm infections are rare in locations that have good sanitation. Flush toilets, sewage system systems, and water treatment plants assist keep feces from the water and food supply.
- People can pass tapeworm eggs on to others when they do not wash their hands after using the bathroom. Tapeworm eggs in feces can easily spread into food or onto surfaces like doorknobs. If you ever require another need to get your kids to wash their hands, this may do it!
- Kids can get tapeworms from consuming meat or fish that hasn’t been cooked enough to kill the tapeworm or its eggs.
Many kids who have a tapeworm infection do not feel anything. It can take months or years to observe any symptoms. A few of the things a child may experience are:
- moderate nausea
- abdominal pain
- weight loss
Kids with a tapeworm infection may 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 or 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 shortage can result in sensations of numbness and other signs of damage to the anxious system. Treating the tapeworm infection typically makes vitamin B12 levels get back to normal.
The eggs of another type of tapeworm (pork tapeworm) can hatch into larvae in the intestinal tract. These larvae go through the intestinal tract wall and enter the bloodstream. From there they can travel to various parts of the body (such as muscles, eyes, or the brain), where they form cysts. This disease is called cysticercosis (sis-tuh-sir-KO-sus). It is uncommon in the United States, but typical in many establishing countries.
With cysticercosis, kids may develop:
- swellings under the skin
- seizures, if the cysts remain in the brain
- vision problems, if the cysts are in the eyes
- an unusual heartbeat, if cysts remain in the heart
- weakness or trouble walking, if cysts are in the spinal column
Consuming infected pork can result in a tapeworm infection in the intestinal tracts, but it won’t develop into cysticercosis. To develop cysticercosis, somebody would need to swallow the eggs of the pork tapeworm, and these eggs aren’t found in the meat itself. They are found in feces and around the rectum.
Cysticercosis happens as a result of consuming 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 she or he has abdominal pain or other symptoms that might suggest a tapeworm infection. You’ll likewise wish to call a doctor if your child reveals signs of infection after traveling to a part of the world that doesn’t have excellent sanitation.
Call a doctor right away if your child has masses or swellings under the skin and establishes 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 away.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To detect a tapeworm infection, doctors generally examine a feces sample for tapeworm sections. Doctors may need to get a number of samples since tapeworms don’t always show up in every sample.
Physicians can quickly treat a tapeworm infection with prescription anti-parasite drugs. Often, simply one dose suffices.
Tapeworm infection isn’t normally severe and most kids have no complications. However in a couple of unusual cases, large tapeworms can block up a child’s intestinal tracts, appendix, bile duct, or pancreatic duct. This can lead to things like appendicitis or swollen gall bladder– not enjoyable, however they can be alleviated.
Cysticercosis is a far more major condition. If a doctor thinks an individual has cysticercosis, she or he may suggest a CT scan (likewise called CAT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to check for cysts. Physicians likewise might recommend anti-inflammatory drugs, like steroids, for cysticercosis infections. If a child has seizures, medical professionals may recommend anti-epilepsy medications.
If a child gets hydrocephalus because of cysticercosis, medical professionals 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 secure your family from tapeworm infections by always following these pointers:
- Wash your hands completely and often with soap and warm water, particularly after using the bathroom and prior to touching food. Teach your kids to do the exact same.
- Thoroughly cook meat till juices run clear and the centers are not pink.
- Cook fish until it is solid in color (no more clear) and flakes when separated with a fork.
- Freeze meat for 24 hours before preparing to kill tapeworm eggs.
Here are some things you should do if you’re in a place where tapeworm infections prevail:
- Wash and cook all fruits and vegetables with safe water.
- Avoid raw or undercooked meat and fish, raw fruits and vegetables 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 routine), or other drinks in bottles and cans. Wipe the top of cans and bottles prior to you drink from them or use a straw. Avoid fountain beverages and ice cubes.
The majority of tapeworm infections are harmless. However it’s constantly a smart idea to take your child to a doctor to get checked out if he or she has symptoms.