Deworming 101 – Everything You Need To Know To Keep Your Child Safe From Worms

When my son complained of a stomach ache almost every morning last month, I thought he was looking for excuses not to attend school. I would tell him to go sit on the pot for a bit or ask him to move it along saying he would be late for school. But I noticed he was not eating properly either and kept scratching his bottom. So I decided to take him to the paediatrician for a check up.

When the doctor told me that he probably had worms I looked at him quite blankly. How could he get worms? I was so careful about what the kids ate, made sure they washed their hands the moment we came home from the park and obviously they knew the drill about washing their hands when they've been to the bathroom. But unfortunately, we had not been as diligent as we thought we were. He asked me to deworm the kids and the adults in the house too.

What Is Deworming?

A worm infestation can cause tummy pain and vomiting. It can also affect normal growth and cause malnutrition in children. That's why doctors recommend getting your baby dewormed every six months after he/she turns one. Deworming is a process in which a medicine is given to the affected person to get rid of parasites. These worms usually make the intestine their home from where they start causing issues and affect your child's well-being. Since children have smaller intestines the risk of blockage is higher. They could have a distended stomach indicating a severe infection.

The most common ones are round worms, tapeworms, pinworms and hookworms.

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Symptoms That Your Child May Have Worms

  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the tummy
  • Itching around the anus
  • Restlessness at night
  • Vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss/gain
  • Anaemia
  • Rash
  • Hands in the mouth all the time

Myth That Your Child has Worms

If your child grinds his/her teeth in their sleep, people will tell you that your child has worms. That's not the case. Doctors are of the opinion that if your child is grinding his/her teeth, it may be that he/she is stressed about something. When adults are upset we grind our teeth, so why should kids be any different.

How Can Your Child Get Infected With Worms?

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  • If they don't wash their hands after going to the toilet.
  • If they don't wash their hands after they've come back from the park.
  • Drinking water that may not be clean.
  • Eating meat/chicken which isn't cooked properly.
  • Walking barefoot is the garden/playground. The hookworm larvae burrow into the foot.
  • Transfer of infection from other infected children in play areas or creches or school. The eggs and larvae often hide under the fingernails and can pass on easily in case of contact.
  • If they have pets or animals that they come into contact with on a regular basis. Pets with ticks could also transfer the infection.
  • Swimming in a pool that may not be up to the required hygiene levels.
  • Eating fruits/vegetables that have not been washed properly.

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How To Treat Worms

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Deworming or drenching kills only the adult worms and not the eggs. Which is why doctors recommend that you deworm your child every six months. The follow-up dose is extremely vital in getting rid of the worms. The parasites feed off the host body and lay eggs to multiply. So if you don't dose your child every six months, the chances of your child being worm-free is difficult. In India, doctors normally prescribe Zentel (albendazole)  for deworming. It comes in liquid and tablet form.

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Did you know that adults should deworm too? Especially parents with small babies. One of the main ways that babies could pick up worms is through contact with you. These parasites remain under your fingernails and you could be unknowingly transmitting it to your little one. So when you deworm your child, you and your domestic help should all take Zentel tablets too. That's is the only way to eradicate the problem.

Check out this wonderful handout prepared by the Ministry of Health, Government of India for promoting awareness on deworming- here

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Please consult a doctor before you take deworming medication if you're dealing with any of these conditions.

  • Have liver problems
  • Are pregnant or nursing your baby
  • Are taking other prescription or non-prescription medicines, including supplements

Minimum Age For Deworming

Normally doctors don't recommend deworming under the age of one. You would need to consult your paediatrician for more information. However, if your kid is under one and shows symptoms of a worm infection, take him/her to the doctor and get him/her checked so that the doctor can ascertain the course of treatment.

As per Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, Director Neonatology, Fortis La Femme

Deworming can be started after the age of 2 years. It is usually required to be given once a year. It is a simple and effective way of keeping the child healthy and free of intestinal infection.

The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare promotes this and observes National Deworming Day every year on February 10th to ensure deworming children at schools and anganwaadi (preschools).

Home Remedies

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In case you don't want to give your child over the counter medication to deal with worms, there are a number of home remedies you could try too.

  • Nutmeg or jaiphal is one of the best remedies for stomach/ intestinal worms. Make a paste with grated nutmeg using a little water. Since nutmeg is bitter, you may add a little jaggery to it. Give a little of this paste to your child every week to prevent worm infection of intestinal worms.
  • Alternately you could also boil half a litre of water with 1 tbsp. ajwain/carom seeds. Strain it and give your child 5-6 times a day for a worm free tummy. Ajwain contains thymol which prevents the growth of worms.

We strongly believe that you shouldn't resort to self-medication and you should consult a doctor would know if your child requires treatment and the dose required for your child’s age and weight.

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