Symptoms of intestinal worms, also known as intestinal parasites, may emerge after ingestion of worm eggs. They can be present in dirt, raw meat or dirty surfaces, and are capable of developing into worms in the intestine.
Some signs and symptoms that can indicate an intestinal worm infection include:
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anal itching
- Excessive fatigue
- Weight loss for no obvious reason
- White dots in the stool
- Appetite changes
Although intestinal symptoms are more common, worms can grow in areas outside of the intestines, such as in the stomach, lungs or even the brain. Therefore other symptoms can also be present, like heartburn, coughing, fever, difficulty breathing and neurological changes.
There are also cases of intestinal worm infections that cause abdominal swelling. This may cause mild discomfort in the bellybutton area.
Online symptoms quiz
To assess whether you are at risk for having an intestinal worm infection, report your symptoms below:
Symptoms seen in babies and children
Symptoms of intestinal worms in babies and children can present as the following:
- Vomiting, diarrhea or gas
- Decreased interest in playing
- Bloating that does improve with abdominal massage
- Anal itching, particularly if it disrupts sleep at night
- Presence of worms in the diaper, anus or stool
- Yellow skin
- Delayed growth
Symptoms of intestinal worms in younger patients emerge most frequently in babies over 6 months of age, as they are in frequent contact with dirty floors and have less developed immune systems. Babies and children should be assessed by a doctor or pediatrician to initiate appropriate treatment.
Intestinal worms are best treated with medication. However, it is important to prevent reinfection once treatment is complete by employing good hand hygiene, especially after going to the bathroom or before cooking.. This will prevent re-transmission of eggs into the body.
It is also important to adopt specific hygiene measures to prevent transmission to other people as well. Again, washing your hands after using the bathroom or before cooking is essential. You should also avoid consuming water or food that could potentially be contaminated, keep your nails short, and ensure your meat is well-done.
Medications indicated for treatment
Medications that are most recommended for treatment of intestinal worms are albendazole and mebendazole. These should be used as directed by the doctor (who should be consulted before you use them. Other common antiparasitic medications include secnidazole, tenidazole and metronidazole.
Some antiparasitic medications can be purchased over-the-counter at the pharmacy as a single-dose pill or syrup, in both adult and child doses (ie. for children over 2). Their use will depend on the type of worm you are treating, and therefore you should still consult your doctor before taking them.