Worms are one of the most common conditions that children catch, occasionally from pets, but usually from themselves, or other infected people. There are several types of worms that can affect humans, but in New Zealand the usual culprit is the threadworm.
You catch worms by eating the worm’s eggs which hatch in the intestines to produce the worm. This worm will then travel out the intestines and lay further eggs around the anus, causing itching. If the area is scratched the eggs may lodge under the fingernails. They are then spread by touching food or other people, infecting either themselves again or others.
You can detect if your child has worms if they have the thread-like worms in their poo or suffer from an itching bottom, particularly at night, where the small eggs may be seen.
Treating worms is generally simple. Most people are treated successfully by preparations available from your community pharmacist. However, not all worm preparations are safe for all, so you need to seek advice about whether worm treatments are suitable for everyone in your family. It is usual to treat all family members, in case the infection has spread beyond the affected person. If you cannot be treated for any reason, then you should be careful to practice good hygiene, keeping fingernails short and well-scrubbed, especially after touching an infected person or their belongings. Affected skin, particularly around the bottom, can be soothed by protective creams used for nappy rash.
If you believe that you or anyone in your family may have worms, consult your community pharmacist for treatments and advice on how to prevent reinfection.
If you have been travelling to other countries, and suspect a worm infection, or have been feeling tired or are suffering from diarrhoea, you may have been infected with some other more sinister parasite that will need an alternative treatment in order to eradicate the infection. Your community pharmacist will be able to supply you with the advice you need to address this.