Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that are flat, segmented worms that live in a person’s digestive tract. They usually live in the intestines of some animals who become infected while grazing in pastures or drinking contaminated water. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adults can become infected with tapeworms by eating raw or under cooked meat that has tapeworm eggs in it. Vegetarians are mostly safe from these infestations but can contract it by consuming food that gets infected with these parasites or coming in contact with infected animal feces.
Types of Tapeworms
. Fish tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium Latum) can cause anemia because it absorbs vitamin B12, which helps make red blood cells. This can lead kids to feel tired, short of breath or have other symptoms of anemia. In prolonged cases, it can cause pernicious anemia.
. Pork tapeworm (Taenia Solium): Children who ingest pork tapeworm eggs through infected pork can develop tapeworm cysts (cysticercosis) within their internal organs. If these cysts occur in the brain, they can cause serious symptoms such as seizures, behavioral disturbances and even death.
. Beef tapeworm (Taenia Saginata): Similar to pork tapeworm infestation but from infected beef products.
Cycle of Infection
Tapeworms get into the body when someone eats or drinks something that’s infected with a worm or its eggs (larvae). People can pass tapeworm eggs on to others when they don’t wash their hands after using the toilet. Tapeworm eggs in feces can easily spread into food or onto surfaces like doorknobs. Kids can get tapeworms from eating meat or fish that hasn’t been cooked enough to kill the tapeworm or its eggs.
When a child eats tapeworm cysts in under cooked beef, pork, or fish, the cyst survives the stomach acids and releases the larvae. Once inside the body, the tapeworm head attaches to the inner wall of the intestines. The tapeworm feeds off the food that the host is digesting, using this as nutrition to grow. The parasite grows within the child’s bowel to become an adult tapeworm. If a child or adult has an adult tapeworm, they will pass segments filled with eggs in their stools. If the infected feces aren’t disposed of in a sanitary way, like down a flush toilet, they can get into the soil or water.
Kids with a tapeworm infection may feel a piece of the worm coming out through the anus. These worms come out of anus at night for laying eggs, so your children may get itching in the nights. You need to suspect of this if they are frequently scratch their anus. Their eggs can live outside up to two weeks, on the cloths, skin and bed. It is the one of the reasons you may get another kid infected. If your child has an infection, you may see a tapeworm segment in his or her feces.
. Maintain high levels of sanitation. Clothes and towels should be clean.
. Cut your nails regularly and maintain cleanliness with cooking and around food.
. Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and hot water, especially after using the bathroom or before touching food. Teach your kids to do the same.
. Thoroughly cook meat until juices run clear and the centers are no longer pink.
. Cook fish until it is solid in color (no longer clear) and flakes when separated with a fork.
. Freeze meat for 24 hours before cooking to kill tapeworm eggs.
. Wash and cook all fruits and vegetables with safe water.
. Avoid raw or under cooked meat and fish, raw fruits and vegetables that you aren’t able to peel yourself and any food from street vendors.
. Drink only water boiled for a least a minute. Wipe the top of cans and bottles before you drink from them. Avoid fountain drinks and ice cubes.
. Onion juice helps to clear the thread worms in the children. Take onions and grind them well and take the juice from the onion mix. Drink the juice in the morning on an empty stomach.
. Drinking 2 grams of drum stick seed powder with the cold water helps clean intestinal worms.
. Make the paste of 1 gram of unripe betel nut paste. Mix this paste with 1 tsp of lemon juice. Take this medicine internally to expel the intestinal worms.
. Basil leaves or basil seeds are helpful to get rid of the worms. Prepare the concoction with the basil leaves or basil seeds powder.
. Take the 4 table spoons of milk from an unripe papaya fruit. Add this milk to 1 table spoon of honey and 4 tablespoons of boiling water. This is an effective anthelmintic for expelling worms.
. Take the bark or peel of the pomegranate. Dry it and powder it. Take the 5 grams of bark pomegranate powder with the sugar.
Although tapeworms in humans usually cause few symptoms and are easily treated, they can sometimes cause serious and life-threatening problems. Hence it’s important to recognize the symptoms and know how to protect kids from this disturbing and health sapping parasites.