Why it is crucial to get children dewormed, especially in India

Intestinal worms or soil-borne helminthic infections (STH) are among the most common parasitic infections in humans.

Myupchar September 27, 2019 12:36:30 IST
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Why it is crucial to get children dewormed, especially in India
  • Intestinal worms or soil-borne helminthic infections (STH) are among the most common parasitic infections in humans

  • The worms thrive in the hot and humid soils of tropical regions and enter the human body through contaminated soil and food

  • Most children with worm infections are underweight and stunted, and they also have difficulty concentrating on day-to-day activities

At least 241 million children below the age of 14 years are at high risk of getting stomach worms in India. Researchers say this is because our soil quality and temperature are conducive to worm growth - poor sanitation also adds to the risk.

Looking at this, the government of India had launched a National Deworming Drive in 2015. As part of this initiative, all children aged 8-19 are given deworming tablets at schools and in Anganwadi centres.

Why it is crucial to get children dewormed especially in India

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Now, a study in The Lancet — a well-regarded science journal — has again drawn attention to the importance of deworming in tropical countries. According to the study, maternal education and wealth are big determinants of whether young children get proper treatment for parasitic intestinal worm infections.

Here is why it is important to ensure that every child in the high-risk age group gets deworming tablets, regardless of whether they have an infection or not.

Soil-borne parasites

Intestinal worms or soil-borne helminthic infections (STH) are among the most common parasitic infections in humans. The worms thrive in the hot and humid soils of tropical regions and enter the human body through contaminated soil and food.

Adult worms grow and reproduce inside the intestines, producing thousands of eggs every day. Some types of helminth larvae can actively penetrate the skin and travel to the intestines through the lungs.

Once inside the body, they start to feed on body tissues and damage intestinal walls. They also lead to malabsorption of nutrients in the gut, loss of appetite and diarrhoea. As a result, children who have a worm infection tend to be anaemic and experience fatigue and weakness.

Long-term health effects

Helminth infections impair the mental and physical development of growing children. Most children with worm infections are underweight and stunted, and they also have difficulty concentrating on day-to-day activities. Some children also find it difficult to memorise new things. As a result, they find it difficult to attend school. In the long term, this can lead to losses in education and, therefore, quality of life in older age.

Symptoms of worm infections

STH symptoms have a direct association with the number of worms - the more the number of worms inside the body, the more severe the symptoms. So while light infections are usually asymptomatic, heavier infections lead to abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, malnutrition, loss of appetite and growth stunting.

STH is not life-threatening.

Preventive steps

The National Health Portal of India lists the following prevention methods to avoid intestinal worms:

  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Use sanitary toilets and do not defecate in the open
  • Wash your hands every time you use the toilet
  • Always wear shoes or slippers
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them
  • Keep your food covered
  • Use clean drinking water

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Ascariasis.

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