Most people only associate deworming with children, but in reality, even adults are at a high risk of getting intestinal worms if they don’t practice good hygiene.
In most cases, intestinal infections can be more dangerous in adults than in children, especially if one is suffering from amoeba-related infections as they can develop into liver and brain complications.
Who’s supposed to deworm?
“Everyone who is at risk of getting worm infestation is supposed to de worm. More particularly, it’s needed for toddlers and small children. Also grown-ups with poor body or food hygiene due to poor living conditions or unclean habits, people handling pets or raw meat and persons who walk barefoot ought to deworm,” says Dr Rachna Pande, a medic at Ruhengeri Hospital.
Dr Pretextate Niyibizi, a pediatric at Harmony de Clinique based in Kigali says deworming is common for children under the age of five.
“Children under the age of five are more exposed to germs than adults; this makes it hard to maintain good hygiene. Deworming should be done after every three months to ensure they don’t develop into health problems,” he says.
How often should one deworm?
Dr Pande explains that deworming should be done according to one’s health.
“If one is at risk of acquiring worm infestations, deworming is needed at least twice a year. However, if one develops any sickness related to worms or sees worms in stool or coming out from mouth, it can be more frequent,” she says.
She also points out that a person may have no symptoms or mild symptoms, but if the stool tests positive for worms, deworming is needed. However, Dr Pandey further reveals that, deworming drugs provide only cure but do not prevent acquisition of worms due to poor hygiene over time.
For Iba Mayele, an obstetrician at Dr Plaza in Kimironko, deworming is a rare condition for adults. He, however, says some diseases may be indications of intestinal worms.
“When a patient is suffering from diarrhea with blood stains or abdominal pain, in some cases they could be having worms. They first have to be examined to find out if they need to deworm,” he says.
Risks associated with worms
According to Dr Pande, the risks of not deworming exist in form of developing different types of sickness due to worms. When a child has intestinal worms, their performance and growth is affected.
The affected person can experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting or sensation of abdominal bloating. Any one or more of these symptoms are due to presence of worms in intestines.
She explains that a heavy load of worms can occlude intestines which can be fatal. Pinworms in children cause intense anal itching, particularly during night. As the larvae of these worms move in the body, allergic reactions can occur in form of dry cough and skin rashes.
“Movement in the lungs can cause cough and even features like pneumonia. They can reach brain affecting the coverings or brain substance, causing various neurological problems. Echinococcus infestation produces multiple cysts in the liver, lungs and other body parts, affecting their function,” says Pande.
She adds that tape worm infestation of the brain causes loss of consciousness and various neurological problems. Hook worms lead to chronic anaemia. Worm infestation is a cause for chronic malnutrition, both in children and adults.
However, Niyibizi says, children who have poor nutrition may also develop worms, and that the main sign of intestinal worms, is developing a big stomach.
Why you need to deworm
Dr Mayele says deworming is essential since it prevents some sickness that may come along with intestinal worms.
“When worms are left to accumulate inside the body, they may cause chronic malnutrition, anaemia, intestinal obstruction and one can even develop liver complications, especially if they have amoeba type of worms,” explains Mayele.
He advises that for adults, one should at least go for checkups twice a year if their personal hygiene is not good.
The two common drugs used in deworming, both in children and adults, are mebendazole and albendazole.