Parasites in children and adults. How to deal with parasites? What tests should be performed?

Despite the increase in hygiene levels and the increase in food control, parasites continue to occur in children and adults. We usually attribute parasitic diseases to young children. During the summer season, it is mostly children who spend time in sandboxes or on beaches, places where animals are also present. While dogs mostly accompany their owners and can be expected to be wormed regularly, a bigger problem is free-living cats, which treat sandboxes as convenient litter boxes. From there, it's only a step to infecting a child with parasites, followed by adult household members. Parasitic diseases give no signs at first and may go unnoticed for a long time, but the problem should not be overlooked.

Pinworms - the most common parasite in children

Adult pinworms live in the terminal segment of the small intestine and in the large intestine. Depending on the intensity of the infestation, pinworms can manifest as loss of appetite and abdominal pain, nausea, irritability, sleep disturbances, itching in the anal area or inflammation of the vulva and vagina - if eggs have been laid in these areas.

In order to detect pinworms, a fecal examination is performed. The recommended method is the so-called "wipe," which is a sample taken from the anal area onto a slide with a cellophane.

Lambliosis - symptoms

Lambliosis is caused by protozoa of the Lamblia intestinalis /Giardia lamblia/ species. Lamblias are located in the small intestine, as well as in the bile ducts, pancreatic duct and gallbladder. Lambliasis can cause abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, recurrent diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, insomnia and cause subfebrile states.

Lamblias cause disorders in the digestion of food, resulting in vitamin deficiencies and protein loss. This leads to malnutrition and impaired physical development of the child.

Testing for lamblia can now be done using an immunoenzymatic method, the Elisa test. The method involves detecting antibodies and antigens that are produced in the body when infected with lamblia.

How to recognize human roundworm infection?

Similar symptoms can be mentioned in the case of roundworm. Roundworm is a parasite that locates in the small intestine. Its secretions have toxic and allergenic effects on humans. A large number of roundworms can even lead to intestinal obstruction. It also happens that parasites penetrate the bile ducts and appendix, causing inflammation. They enter the lungs with the blood, passing through the liver and heart along the way. They can pierce the walls of the alveoli and reach the trachea and throat.

Human roundworm infection can manifest as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, rash, itchy skin, headache and even swelling of the face or hands. This can be accompanied by fever and cough, as the larvae cause irritation of the bronchial epithelium. Such widespread symptoms mean that ascariasis is sometimes diagnosed quite late, and the changes produced in the body serious enough that outpatient treatment is not sufficient.

Testing for the presence of parasite eggs is performed three times from fecal samples taken at intervals of several days.

Toxocariasis difficult to diagnose

The reason is the unusual symptoms of toxocariasis. Animals, mainly dogs and cats, are the carriers of the parasites. Infection occurs after ingesting eggs found in their feces. In humans, Toxocara species cause a disease called wandering larvae syndrome. The larvae hatch in the small intestine, pass through its wall and spread throughout the body with the blood. They are most often located in the liver, central nervous system and eye.

If you suspect Toxocara nematode infection, you should immediately contact your doctor, who will refer you for appropriate testing using serological tests performed from the blood.

How to avoid parasite infestation

Proper hygiene is necessary, as is prevention. Thorough hand washing before eating, after leaving the toilet, after playing with the dog or cat, after playing in the sandbox, are basic rules of hygiene. You should also not use shared towels, change personal underwear and bedding frequently, keep the bathroom, toilet, kitchen and other areas associated with food preparation clean. Remember to wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly, especially those eaten raw. If you keep dogs and cats you need to systematically deworm them.

Let's not wait until a child develops symptoms, but try to systematically check for parasite infections. Especially after the summer, such tests should even be a necessity. If the test result is positive, the deworming treatment should be given to all household members. If we cure the child and do not undergo the treatment ourselves, in a few weeks everything will return to square one.

Remember, however, that antiparasitic drugs should not be taken "just in case." Let's leave the decision to subject the child and the rest of the household to treatment to the doctor, who, after reviewing the results of the relevant diagnostic tests, will select a course of treatment.

If you have symptoms that may indicate infection with parasites consult a doctor Book >>

Medical consultation
doctor Barbara Rusinek
Specialist in family medicine

The information contained in this article is for general information and educational purposes. They are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is recommended that you consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional for advice on your specific symptoms, ailments or condition.