Ascaris lumbricoides which are a species of roundworm insects causes infection in the small intestine, known as Ascariasis. The roundworms are parasitic worms and the infection caused by it in the intestine is a very common type of infection worldwide except in the UK. However by maintaining proper hygiene and other natural ways to prevent ascariasis one can protect themselves from its health hazards.
This parasitic infection is one of the largest infections in the intestine which can even grow up to 40 cm. in total length. The primary reason for this infection is bad sanitation and hygiene which is mainly found in poor countries in the tropical and subtropical regions.
Mostly this parasitic infection shows mild symptoms but if the severity of infection remains high then it produces serious symptoms followed by complications associated with it.
Symptoms of Ascariasis
In most cases, the Ascariasis has no symptoms or very mild symptoms. However, its signs or symptoms vary as per its severity rate and also the affected body part of the particular person.
Infection in the Lungs
- Breathing shortness or wheezing
- Coughing or gagging
- Blood in mucus
- Aspiration pneumonia (rare condition)
- Chest discomfort
Infection in the Intestine
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort or pain
- Intestinal blockage which is accompanied by intense pain and vomiting
- Irregular stools or Diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Visible worms in the stool
- Malnutrition and anemia
- Impaired physical growth in children especially due to malabsorption.
Causes of Ascariasis
Under the condition, you have digested the eggs of A. lumbricoides roundworm; your body gets infected with ascariasis. These eggs found in the contaminated soil which can enter in the human body through unhygienic food or uncooked food.
Children are mostly the victim of this infection who often plays in contaminated soil and enters their hand in mouth, so the eggs easily get entered inside their body through mouth causing infection in lungs and intestine as per the World Health Organization or WHO. Also, this infection can pass from one person to other directly.
Once the parasitic roundworms enter in your body it passes through different stages and on the variations on these stages the severity of infection depends upon. However, the causes of the ascariasis infection can be described under the following mentioned points.
- Consumption of raw vegetables which is contaminated with the ascariasis eggs.
- Unhygienic water consumption.
- If during fertilization the usage of contaminated human feces is done then it can lead to ascariasis.
- Improper human feces disposal.
- If someone accidentally ingests the lumbricoides roundworm’s eggs then it can cause ascariasis infection.
- Ascariasis often passes through directly from one person to another.
- Children playing in the contaminated soil if put their hands in the mouth can be infected with ascariasis.
Diagnosis of Ascariasis Infection
If anyone is noticing the symptoms of ascariasis then following diagnosis process is applied in order to confirm it.
The doctors ask for stool test or examination of the person who is developing the symptoms of ascariasis in order to diagnose it. With the help of microscopic examination larvae or eggs of the female worm are demonstrated in the stool test.
The mature female ascariasis worms lay eggs in the intestine which slowly travels through the digestive system and hence excreted through stools. So the stool test can clearly examine the existence of this infection however if the age of eggs is less than 40 days then it will not appear in the test.
For diagnosing the existence of ascariasis infection blood tests is needed to be done by the person who is experiencing its symptoms. The number of white blood cells naming eosinophil is increased in the case of this infection. The ascariasis elevates the level of this white blood cell, however, this can also be increased due to any other health condition.
Following type of imaging test are needed to be done for diagnosing the ascariasis infection.
- X-rays- If the infested worms are living in your intestine then the x-ray report of your abdomen area can reveal the appearance of these worms clearly. In the case of infested worms living in lungs, the x-ray of your chest can reveal the presence of these worms.
- Ultrasound- Ultrasound is a high level of internal organ imaginary test which with the help of sound waves produces the images of internal organs. The ultrasound will help to reveal the presence of infested worms in the liver or pancreas.
- CT scan or MRI- The CT scan or MRI shows a very minute level of images of your internal organ so that it can easily reveal the presence of infested worms in your body. These tests will help your doctor to find out the worms which are blocking ducts in your liver or pancreas.
Treatment Procedure of Ascariasis
In some cases of ascariasis infection, it doesn’t develop any symptoms so it gets resolved on its own with the passes of time. However, the ascariasis infection which causes symptoms needs to be treated properly in order to relieve the symptoms and for complications associated with it.
Mostly this infection is treatable through medications; if severity found and the infection is spreading then it requires surgery process to get rid of this health problem completely and for ensuring a healthy living.
Treatment of Ascariasis through Medication
The anti-parasite medications are the first choice or option of treatment of this infection. The medications which are normally prescribed are –
- Albendazole (Albenza)
- Mebendazole (Vermox)
- Ivermectin (Stromectol)
These prescribed medications are needed to be taken for one to three days which kills the adult worms existing in your body. Its side effects include diarrhea and mild abdominal pain.
Treatment of Ascariasis through Surgery
If the severity of infection is very high then it can be only treated through the surgical process. Under the surgery treatment process, the removal of infested worms are done and the damages are also repaired in this process caused by these worms.
Bile duct obstruction, appendicitis, and intestinal obstruction or perforations are some major complications which can only be treated through the surgery process.
Prevention of Ascariasis
The ascariasis infection primarily occurs in the lack of proper hygiene and cleanliness. An area with a vast population in respect to lesser area of land to live is quite likely to develop unhygienic and pollution full environment which gives birth to these contaminated infections among people living there.
With some healthy lifestyle changes and by maintaining regular hygiene in our living and nearby areas we can cope up with this infection and also prevents the occurrence of ascariasis infection in lungs or intestine.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
Wash your hands properly whenever you go to prepare any food as this prevents the contamination of the infection. The ascariasis infection mainly spreads through your hands when any ingesting egg or larvae come in the contact of your mouth through the hands.
You can use the sanitizer or any other hand cleansing measure before and after cooking food. Especially while cutting the raw fruits and vegetables you need to maintain extra care and hygiene and this you can do by thoroughly cleaning your hands.
For preventing the unwanted parasite's infection, always wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after washroom with soap and water. Scrub your hand at least for 20 seconds for preventing harmful bacteria and parasites and dry your hands by using a clean towel or handkerchief.
Properly Dispose of the Fecal Matter
The ascariasis infection easily transferred through soil if it is contaminated by the fecal matter. So it should be our primary duty to ensure that the fecal matters are getting disposed in an isolated area or where there is no population at all as any infested eggs persist in the environment for a very long period.
The fecal matter disposal should not be done in the agricultural area or nearby any water bodies as these places easily get infested causing the development of ascariasis infection. Water and the crops which we consume can easily cause ascariasis if it remains in the touch of disposal fecal matter. So for preventing the ascariasis infection, it is necessary to dispose of the fecal matter properly.
Cut Your Nails Timely
Your hands are the biggest source of transformation of the infested larvae or eggs through your mouths, so it is important to maintain proper hand hygiene for preventing the ascariasis infection.
Always cut your fingernails on time otherwise it will grow up and can easily carry the contaminated soil, fruits, and vegetables when you consume them. A finger trapped with the fecal matter cannot be cleaned even with soap wash. When your nail remains short it won’t allow to eggs to get trapped easily hence prevent the risk of ascariasis infection.
Keep Children Away from Contaminated Soil
The ascariasis infection mainly found in the children aging under 10. This particularly happens because they have played with the contaminated soil or mud. In the countries or regions with the poor quality of sanitation in their regular life, it is found that the infested eggs make their home in the contaminated soil and water. When children come in the contact of these, they get infected.
By properly teaching our children about hygiene and sanitation we can prevent the fear of ascariasis infection. Children generally have a habit of keeping their hands in the mouth quite often and this is the reason the children are the biggest victim of this parasite infection.
It is important to increase awareness among children and also to teach proper sanitation habits like washing hands before eating food, not to play in muds, prevents the eating of fruits without washing it in clean water etc.
Wash Fruits and Vegetables Thoroughly
Places where there is lack of modernized sanitation, make sure you are preparing foods after properly washing the raw vegetables also wash the fruits before eating them. This will help to remove pesticides used during the fertilization of these fruits and eggs.
Washing fruits and vegetables before consumption is a good and healthy habit as it not only prevents the risk associated with Ascaris eggs but it will also keep your body fit and healthy by preventing other health risks which mainly develops in the lack of hygiene and sanitation.
Avoid the Consumption of Crops Grown in Contaminated Soil
In many places around the world, human feces are used as a fertilizer during the harvesting and fertilization process. The fruits and vegetables grown in these soils are more likely to carry ingesting roundworm eggs which can easily spread infection when consumed by people.
For preventing the ascariasis infection it is important to avoid the usage of human feces for the cultivation purpose as a fertilizer instead other healthy fertilizers should be used which won’t cause the risk of infection such as ascariasis.
Peel and Wash Raw Vegetables
Vegetables which is grown in the areas where human fecal are used in the agricultural process carries a very high risk to contain infested eggs. For avoiding the risk of infection caused by the parasite worms everyone should peel the vegetables and cleans it before cooking it.
The peeling process ensures that all infested eggs are washed off along with the peels of vegetables especially if it is grown in soil where human fecal matter is used as a fertilizer.
Carry Your Own Food & Water during Outdoors
Make sure if you are on outdoors or while traveling somewhere carry your own homemade foods and water or drink only the sealed water as these are properly refined before packaging. No one can guarantee for the hygiene and sanitation of foods prepared or sold outside.
Raw foods available outside are the potential source of this type of infection if hygiene is not maintained by the seller. So for preventing the ascariasis infection, it is important for the travelers to carry their own food and water or drink only the sealed water bottles.
Apply the above mentioned healthy lifestyle as these are the effective natural ways to prevent ascariasis and its associated health hazards to the infected person.