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“Worms” is used to describe the infestation of the body by various types of worms including threadworms, roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms.

Tapeworms live in the intestines and can grow to huge lengths. They attach themselves to the inner lining of the gut and there are often no symptoms at all. They cannot be passed from person to person. Symptoms of infestation include weight loss, stomach pain and diarrhoea. The worms are ingested from undercooked beef or pork.

Threadworms are the most common parasite infecting children in moderate climates. They are very contagious and the eggs are transferred from the anal area to clothing, sheets or toys and then to the mouth. The eggs are swallowed and move down to the gut where they hatch and mature. The female worms lay thousands of eggs around the anus and a glue-like fluid is used to stick the eggs to the anus. This fluid causes irritation resulting in the sufferer scratching around the anus almost involuntarily.

Roundworms are the most common worms in warmer climates and infestation tends to occur in areas with poor sanitation. Early symptoms manifest in the lungs with fever, cough and wheezing. The worm migrates to the intestines causing cramps and sometimes obstruction. A diagnosis is reached by finding eggs in the stool.

Hookworm infestation is usually asymptomatic but there might be abdominal pain or iron deficiency. Once again, infestation is common in areas of poor sanitation. Eggs are passed in faeces, hatch in the soil and infect a new host by penetrating the skin. The larvae reach the lungs via the blood and lymphatic flow. They move up the respiratory tract and are swallowed. They attach to the walls of the intestine and feed on blood. These worms can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

Hygiene is very important in the treatment of these infestations. Hands should be washed regularly. All clothes and linens should be ironed as the heat of the iron will kill the eggs. Disinfectants can be used around the house also. There are over the counter preparations which are very effective in treating worm infestation. They work by paralysing the worm and killing them that way, allowing them to be passed in the faeces.

If someone is a habitual sufferer of worm infestation their diet should be low in refined carbohydrates. The diet should also incorporate foods rich in the B Group Vitamins, such as lean pork, liver and wholemeal bread. The sufferer should probably take a multivitamin to offset the effect of the worms removing nutrients in the intestine. Acidophilus is also helpful in establishing a healthy flora of bacteria in the gut. Immuno-boosters such as zinc may help as low immune function may increase the risk of infestation by worms.

The Staff at the Pharmacy will be happy to advise you on the available over the counter treatments for worm infestation and suitable vitamin and mineral supplements.

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Kevin McCormack B.Sc. Pharm. MPSI