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Digestive Health

Got Worms? Understanding and Preventing Intestinal Parasites

Fact-check: Intestinal worms are more common than you think—here’s what you need to know about deworming in adults.

Feb 22, 2024

3 min read

Written by Madhavi Dhobale
Medically Reviewed by 

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A person holds an image of the intestine to describe better gut health

Intestinal parasites—ever heard of them? Turns out, they’re more common than you might think, especially in places where sanitation and hygiene might not be up to par. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, approximately 21% of India's population may be infected with intestinal parasites, probably due to poor sanitation and inadequate personal hygiene. But fear not, we’ve got the lowdown on intestinal worms, how to spot them, and most importantly, how to prevent them. A study suggested that intestinal parasites have been known to infect humans since prehistoric times and have evolved with humans throughout history.

Hectic lifestyles and modern food habits, where we consume more and more dishes that are not cooked at home or properly cleaned, may cause worm infections among adults. The study also revealed that intestinal parasite infestation, which results from poor or unhygienic nutrition, may cause malnutrition, chronic inflammatory diseases and acute gastrointestinal infection in children as well as adults, ultimately affecting growth, development and overall well-being. Deworming for human adults ensures that the body obtains the essential nutrients and remains healthy.

Intestinal Parasites: What Are They?

Picture this: Tiny parasites that make themselves at home in your intestines. Sounds gross, right? Well, these critters can be transmitted through soil, water, raw meat or veggies, and even contaminated food. They come in all shapes and sizes, from microscopic hookworms to tapeworms that can grow up to a whopping 30 feet long. The most common ones that infect humans are roundworms, whipworms, and hookworms.

Spotting the Signs

So, how do you know if you’ve got a worm infection? Well, the symptoms can vary depending on how many worms are hanging out in your body. These intestinal parasites and their eggs can pass through the digestive system and be found in the stool. Sometimes, you might even spot a worm in your stool during a bathroom break. Not fun! Look out for symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, bloating, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. If you notice any of these, it might be time to pay a visit to your doctor.

Deworming: Is It Necessary?

Now, onto the big question: Do you need to deworm? The short answer is maybe. Deworming involves taking medication prescribed by your doctor to kill those pesky intestinal worms. It’s a simple and effective way to improve your health and prevent reinfection. While not everyone needs to be dewormed, it’s especially important for folks at higher risk of infection, like those living in areas with poor sanitation. Your doctor can help determine if deworming is necessary for you and prescribe the appropriate medication based on the type of worm infection you have.

Managing Deworming

Prevention is key when it comes to worm infections. Here are some simple steps you can take to keep those parasites at bay:

  • Wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or cooking and after using the toilet or touching soil or dirt.
  • Keep your nails clean and trimmed.
  • Stick to bottled, filtered, or boiled water, especially in areas with poor sanitation.
  • Thoroughly wash fruits and veggies before eating.
  • Keep your clothes, towels, and bed linen clean.
  • Don’t forget to deworm your furry friends too!

So, there you have it—a crash course on intestinal parasites. Remember, deworming in adults can help prevent serious health issues associated with worm infections, so don’t hesitate to chat with your doctor if you’re thinking about why deworming is necessary for you. Stay clean, stay healthy, and keep those pesky parasites at bay.

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Sujata Chakravarti, Family Physician

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