Worm Infections In Toddlers and How To Deal With Them
- Worm infection is very commonly seen in toddlers.
- Poor hygiene, unhealthy food, and dirty soil can be the points of contact with the eggs of the roundworm.
- Cough, fatigue, sleepless nights, abdominal pain, irritability, and worm in vomit or stool are some common signs and symptoms.
- Proper hygiene, regular bathing, washing hands and clothes with medication like Albendazole, Ivermectin, and Mebendazole are primary treatments for roundworm infection.
Does your toddler have an occasional tummy ache, or feels pukish, restless, and has an itch in the rectum? Does this happen frequently? If the answer is yes, this could be because they have a worm infection in their intestine.
This means your baby might have live worms in its intestine. This may cause them irritation and reduce their physical activity and put a damper on their mood. The most common types that afflict kids are roundworm infection and pinworm infection.
Don’t worry. Let’s go through some very important information that can help you to prevent and reduce the risk of reinfection. First, we understand what worm infection is, the symptoms of worms in children, and their treatment and prevention actions. You will also learn more about roundworm and pinworm treatment for kids.
Worm infection: What does it mean
Worm infection means there is a live worm living in your intestine that lays eggs in their thousands. Intestinal worm infection is very common in toddlers. Humans are the most preferred host for these parasites.
This means that these sneaky little monsters love setting up camp in our bodies, specifically in the intestine. Most commonly found in the age one- to four-year-old toddlers, children are more susceptible to getting infected with worms than adults.
Causes of worm infection
Poor hygiene, overcrowded environment, poverty, and open defecation is the main cause of parasite infection in children. Kids are not known to be the most hygienic ones.
If toddlers play barefoot in the dirt, eat unwashed fruits and vegetables, do not wash hands properly after using the washroom, and immediately touch their face or put their fingers in their mouth, they are at risk of getting a worm infection.
Worms are known to impact over a quarter of the world’s population, with children from low- and middle-income countries being particularly vulnerable.
How to Deal with a worm infection
- You can keep your child away from soil contaminated by human feces.
- Do not eat raw fruits and vegetables directly from the farm.
- Wash vegetables and fruits before eating. Make sure you clean your house floor and yard from dog or pet poop.
- Deworm your pets frequently.
- Wash your hands after using the toilet and before feeding your child.
- Prevent unnecessary touching of object surfaces with worm eggs on them.
There are so many kinds of worm infections that occur in toddlers. Let’s focus on some of the major ones.
Roundworms are organisms that are small in size and live in the intestines of the digestive tract. Roundworms can live in the intestine for a long period of time. They need the human body to mature into eggs. Roundworms have long round bodies of different sizes and cause stomach cramps, which lead to vomiting.
Size and some features of roundworm
A female roundworm might be 20–50cm long and a male roundworm might be 15–30cm long.
They live a year or so in the host's body and multiply by a process called fertilization. Adult females after fertilization may lay up to 200,000 eggs per day. Eggs are infectious for 2–4weeks.
Life-cycle of a Worm
Ingestion: The little (minuscule) ascariasis eggs can't infect without coming into contact with soil. Toddlers can coincidentally ingest (swallow) debased soil through hand-to-mouth contact or by eating uncooked natural products or vegetables that have been filled in polluted soil.
Relocation: Eggs hatch in your small digestive tract and afterward go through the gastrointestinal tract to head out to the heart and lungs by means of the circulatory system or lymphatic framework. Subsequent to developing for around 10 to 14 days in your lungs, the hatchlings break into your respiratory route and travel up the throat, where they're hacked up and gulped.
Development: When they're back in the digestive organs, the parasites develop into male or female worms. Female worms can be more than 15 inches (40 centimeters) in length and somewhat less than a quarter-inch (6 millimeters) in width. Male worms are by and large more modest.
Multiplication: Female worms can deliver 200,000 eggs per day on the off chance that there are both female and male worms in the digestive organs, and the eggs leave your body in excrement. The treated eggs should be in the soil for two days to about a month prior to becoming infective.
Signs and Symptoms of Roundworm Infection
Sometimes toddlers with good immunity do not show any symptoms. You may see small live roundworms in the baby's poop or coming out of the nose or mouth.
With low immunity, babies have some symptoms that may include:
- Disturbed sleep
- Abdominal cramps
- Anal itching especially at bedtime
- Delayed growth
How do roundworms affect toddlers
Roundworms can significantly hamper the growth of toddlers. They can decrease fat absorption and cause vitamin A & C deficiency in toddlers. Moderate or high infection intensity can result in nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
Once your toddler swallows tiny eggs, they get settled in the small intestine and the larvae migrate into the lungs. At this stage, they may cause persistent cough, shortness of breath, and some symptoms similar to asthma.
Adult worms can live in the intestine until they die. Till the time they inhabit the child’s intestine, they cause nausea, fatigue, a worm in your stool or vomit, and irritation to your toddlers.
Commonly, this infection is diagnosed by seeing worms or eggs in a toddler's feces or the diaper. The mother can check to see small worms on the anus area if the toddler shows any symptoms.
1. Stool microscopy:
The doctor may ask for a stool sample test. A fresh stool specimen is best for the test. The examination includes its color, consistency, blood, and mucus in the sample presence of any worm part. If there are fewer number of eggs detected, then stool samples can be concentrated. Mature female worms lay eggs in your toddler's intestine. And if your toddler is infected with a male worm, there is no trace of egg in your baby's stool.
2. Blood test:
In a toddler’s blood test, there is an increased number of white blood cells, such as eosinophils. This result along with other tests indicates the presence of roundworm in the toddler's stomach.
On a plain radiograph, a child with intestinal blockage caused by roundworm may show a radiolucent shadow in the form of a “cigar bundle appearance” or “whirlpool effect” due to the contrast of worm mass against intestinal air. On an ultrasound abdomen, the worms can be seen directly. The coiled body of the roundworm in the biliary tract produces the “bull's eye sign” or “double tubes sign” on ultrasonography.
Anti-parasite medication is one of the best primary treatments for roundworms. There are various kinds of roundworms, and they all have the same kind of treatment.
The most common medicines are:
These medicines prevent eggs or larvae from growing or multiplying. The roundworm present in the body then passes through babies' feces. Also, some iron supplements may be prescribed for anemia, as well as some cream to stop any itching.
In some cases of severe infection, surgery became necessary to remove all the worms and repair intestinal or bile duct blockage or holes.
To prevent your toddler from reinfection, keep your child away from the contaminated soil with human or any animal stool, toys, or food items. Wash vegetables and fruits before eating. Clean your surroundings and make sure your toddler washes hands before and after eating.
Pinworm is one of the parasitic infections that is caused in the intestine, mainly the colon and rectum. Pinworms affect thousands of babies each month, especially toddlers. Eggs of pinworms are easily spread from toddler to toddler. If your child has a pinworm infection, don’t worry, it does not cause any severe effects. Let's see a complete guide on pinworm infection.
Size and Some Features of Pinworm
The size of these worms is around 1cm, and they appear round and white. They lay around 11,000 eggs per day with 2–13 weeks of lifespan. They are bean-shaped eggs which ate attached around the anus skin at night.
Cause of Pinworm Infection
Now you are wondering if pinworm infection is contagious? Yes. Pinworms enter size. Eggs can be found on contaminated surfaces such as: clothing, used towels, food, drinking glasses, eating utensils, toilets, bed linens, desk or table, etc.
It travels to the large intestine from the small intestine and lives in the large intestine as a parasite.
After 40 to 50 days, due to bowel movement adult female pinworms leave the large intestine and come out from the anus. They lay eggs on the skin surrounding the anus. This induces severe itching around the anus. Often, this happens at night. And toddlers become restless and sleep gets disturbed.
Toddlers get irritated because of itching. When he or she starts scratching the itchy area, the pinworm transfers to the fingers. This contaminated finger which carries eggs eventually goes to the mouth and goes back to the body and lives for another two to three weeks.
Signs and symptoms
- The one and only very common sign of pinworm infection is scratching the itchy area around the anus.
- The itching gets worse at bedtime because worms move around the anus area and lay their eggs. This itching disturbs the sleep of the toddler and they became restless.
- Excessive itching can break the skin around the anus and this could lead to bacterial infection. Sometimes in baby girls, pinworm infection spreads up the vagina to the uterus and pelvic organs and causes vaginal discharge and inflammation of the vagina and inner lining of the uterus (endometritis). In some cases, it may cause urinary tract infections and weight loss.
You can see worms in the anal part, especially if your child has some sweet food or at bedtime. They look like tiny threads about as long as staples.
Abdominal pain and nausea are rare symptoms if your toddler has a large count of pinworms in the intestine.
The medical diagnosis includes the tape test, which is performed as follows:
- By sticking a sticky piece of clear cellophane tape to the skin around your child's anus, your doctor may be able to diagnose pinworm.
- Under a microscope, pinworm eggs will stick to the tape and can be observed. You will have to do this test three days in a row.
- The optimum time to do this is before a bath, either at night or in the morning (when the anus has the most pinworm activity).
To check for eggs, the doctor may collect samples from under a child's fingernails.
How do you treat pinworms in children at home?
Pinworm eggs can easily stick to surfaces, like toys, bedding, and toilet seats for two weeks. So with regular cleaning, you should include some good habits in your toddler that helps to prevent the spread of pinworm eggs and hence reinfection.
- Wash your hands to reduce the risk of spreading infection, and regularly wash your and your toddler's hands well after using the toilet or changing a diaper, or before eating.
- Pinworms lay their eggs at night. So washing the anal area in the morning before bathing reduces the risk of reinfection in toddlers.
- Make sure your child bathes regularly and changes underwear and clothes daily.
- Make sure your child avoids excess scratching of the anal area. Cut your toddler's fingernails so fewer eggs are deposited there. Stop your child from biting their nails.
- Wash all the belongings of your toddler in warm soapy water and dry on high heat to kill pinworm eggs.
Worm infection is very common in toddlers, whether it is roundworm infection or pinworm infection. There are many causes that can induce infection and baby get sick.
Coming into contact with roundworm eggs or larvae can cause an infection that could be contagious. Abdominal cramps, nausea, worms in vomiting, cough, fatigue, energy loss, sleepless nights, anal itching, and irritability all are signs of a worm infection.
Look out for these symptoms of worms in children to keep them safe and healthy.
But don’t worry, mothers! These infections may be prevented by maintaining proper hygiene, regular bathing and washing clothes, and hands, and avoiding scratching. Once given proper medication prescribed by the doctor, your child will be just fine.
You will then not require pinworm treatment for kids. And toddlers usually don’t have long-term health issues from roundworms.
Did you like our Article?
- Wendt S, Trawinski H, Schubert S, Rodloff AC, Mössner J, Lübbert C. The diagnosis and treatment of pinworm infection. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. 2019 Mar;116(13):213
- Pinworm infections available at Clevelandclinic
- Bharti B, Bharti S, Khurana S. Worm infestation: Diagnosis, treatment and prevention. The Indian Journal of Pediatrics. 2018 Nov;85(11):1017-24.
- Weatherhead JE, Hotez PJ. Worm infections in children. Pediatrics in review. 2015 Aug 1;36(8):341-54.
- Ascariasis available at Mayoclinic
- Roundworm available at Healthychildren
Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Dec, 01 2023
Dr. Pramod Mane
Fact checked By
Dr. Burtseva Tamara Viktorivna