Have you been woken up at night by your child thrashing around restlessly in their sleep, or by them calling out that they have a sore tummy or an itchy bottom?
No group of society is immune to intestinal worms occurring at some time. There is no point in hanging your head in shame thinking that you have neglected to clean the house properly or bathe your children regularly enough. Same too, it doesn’t matter which crèche or school etc your child attends, the reality is that 1 in 4 children will at some point have worms.
Intestinal parasites have plagued human health for as long as history. The most common inhabitants of our gut are intestinal worms. In Australia, the most common form of worms is threadworms (also known as pinworms). They are easily identifiable as they are thin, white crescent or loop shaped and often shiny with a pointy end. They can look like small pieces of white nylon fishing line, 2-12mm or so in length.
First signs that our kiddies may have worms can be restless sleep, grinding teeth, itchy nose and bottom, tummy aches or even just being fussy about foods. More progressive symptoms can be bloating, changeable bowel habits, weight loss, recurring genito/urinary tract irritations or infections, bed wetting, irritability, hyperactivity, nausea and vomiting.
Worms can be identified by checking the anus. Nighttime is the best time to check when the adult worms exit the anus to lay eggs. The eggs can be seen as tiny, tiny ivory coloured specks. Worms themselves may be seen protruding from the anus, and dead adult worms may be seen in under clothing or in bowel motions.
Now, worms are clever little things; as they mature in the digestive tract, they produce toxins which act as an irritant. This irritant can cause itching of the nose, ears and lips. This ensures the breeding cycle of worms because the child will scratch at their bottom, then at their face and so on. For worms to regenerate, they must be ingested through the mouth for the full cycle to start again.
The trick with all this is that the eggs can survive days even weeks if conditions are favourable. So, the toilet, bath, shower, clothes basket, bathroom basin, bedding, bench tops, just to name a few, all become potential sources of manifestation.
Treatment of worms varies depending on the intensity of the infestation. In many cases, simple home remedies such as garlic, golden seal, cloves, cardamom, and the like combined with sensible hygiene such as always washing hands before eating or touching the face are sufficient.
Sometimes though, it is inevitable that families become stuck in cyclical infestations; one of our children will be clear, whilst the other has symptoms, then vice versa and the cycle starts again. Over the counter medications can be useful in these situations, but with a few rules.
If the single treatment, with perhaps one follow-up, resolves the problem long term, then there is not much to worry about. However, should over the counter products be insufficient in preventing re-infestations, it may be necessary to look at the overall gut and immune health. In many cases where a healthy child ends up with worms, we may see no symptoms and the child’s immune system effectively eradicates them. That’s the ideal!
It’s the old adage “if the soil is right, it will grow. So it is with the gut and worms. So when your child is irritable and won’t eat their vegetables, perhaps it is that they have worms, and if this becomes a recurring cycle, then looking at gut health becomes essential.
Author: John Burchell – Naturopath at The Medical Sanctuary – Read more about John HERE.