What is a parasite?
Intestinal parasites is an organism or small animal that lives inside or on the surface of another organism and obtains nutrients. Parasites cannot survive independently. Parasites include fleas, lice and worms. Parasitic diseases include: infections caused by protozoa (single-celled organisms, such as malaria), infections caused by worms (intestinal worms), and infections caused by arthropods (such as scabies).
What are intestinal parasites?
Intestinal parasites live in the intestine (digestive tract). Intestinal parasites are usually protozoa (such as Giardia) or worms (such as pinworms or tapeworms), which enter the child and parasitize in the intestinal tract. Parasites survive in the intestines or other parts of the body, and often reproduce. The parasite may or may not cause illness or infection.
Parasites are common in the world. Infectious diseases can spread in crowded places, such as day care. In addition, children in developing countries often carry some kind of parasite. Poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water increase the risk of infection with parasites.
The most common intestinal parasites in children are Giardiasis and pinworm. Other parasites are common in children born outside of Canada, or children who have lived in developing countries with poor sanitation. Including ascariasis, amoebiasis and taeniasis.
Giardiasis is a waterborne disease. If a child uses water that pollutes the water source, it may be infected. Children living in places lacking water resources and sanitation facilities or crowded areas (such as child care centers) are more likely to contract Giardiasis.
Giardiasis is also known as beaver fever because it is caused by drinking untreated lake water.
Signs and symptoms of Giardiasis
Some children have no signs or symptoms, but they may still carry parasites and spread through feces. For symptomatic children, the symptoms include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Loose stool
- Stomach cramps
Sudden weight loss
Blood or mucus in the stool is not a symptom of Giardia. Symptoms usually appear 2 weeks after infection. With treatment, symptoms can improve within 6 weeks. Most children do not need treatment.
Causes of Giardiasis
Such parasites can survive in rivers, streams, lakes, or urban water sources, swimming pools, and hot springs. Infection can also be transmitted through food or interpersonal contact. Giardia is also present in animal feces.
Complications of Giardiasis
Potential complications of Giardiasis are:
Severe diarrhea, but very few cases, it can cause dehydration.
How to diagnose Giardiasis
The doctor may need to test your child’s stool to confirm whether you have Giardiasis. It may be necessary to retest after a few days to ensure accurate results.
Treatment of Giardiasis
Some medicines can be used to treat Giardiasis. The doctor will determine which treatment is best for your child.
Pinworm is a tiny, white, linear worm parasitic in the rectum. At night, pinworms crawl out of the anus and lay eggs on nearby skin. This can cause severe itching. Pinworms can cause trouble, but they don’t cause disease.
Pinworm eggs are particularly viable. Can live on clothes, bedding or other objects outside the body for 2 weeks.
Pinworm signs and symptoms
In general, children who carry pinworms usually have no symptoms. Itching may occur near the anus, especially at night. May cause insomnia. It may also become irritable due to itching.
There may be adult pinworms in the child’s anus, underwear, diaper, or toilet behind the stool, but it may not.
Pinworms are easily spread among children. After the child scratches the infected area, pinworm eggs will be present in the fingers or nails. When a child transfers pinworm eggs to another child and the other child swallows it unconsciously, it causes the infection to spread.
Pinworms can also spread indirectly. Pinworm eggs can stick to toys, toilet seats, clothing or bedding. When children touch pinworm eggs and put them in their mouths, they can cause infections. Children are more likely to spread pinworms in mild weather and in nurseries.
How to diagnose pinworm
To diagnose pinworms, doctors will recommend a test for pinworm eggs. You or your doctor can take the belt test. Apply cellophane tape to the skin around the child’s anus. Then check the paper tape with a microscope to find pinworm eggs. If the test is done at home, it is best to do it in the morning before the child bathes or toilets. Bring a paper tape sample to your child’s doctor.
Another method is to check for adult pinworms in the child’s anus, underwear, diaper, or toilet after the stool. Note that pinworms are white and only about one centimeter long.
If the diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will prescribe oral medicine. The medicine usually takes effect in 2 weeks. Itching may continue for 1 week.
If a person in the family is diagnosed with pinworms, other people in the family also need to be checked and treated.
Other common parasites in children
Human yeasts are tiny parasites that survive in the stools of children who are healthy or suffer from diarrhea and stomach pain. Such infections usually disappear automatically.
Crispy dual-core amoeba
Brittle binuclear amoeba survives in the intestine. Spread through food or water. Brittle dual-core amoeba is not pathogenic.
Ascariasis is a roundworm infection. Roundworms can grow up to 41 cm long. This parasite infection only becomes serious when there are hundreds of roundworms in the body. The child will get sick.
Amoeba enters the child and multiplies, causing amoebiasis. This infection may be asymptomatic. There are very few serious infections that can cause fever, diarrhea, jaundice, or weight loss.
Tapeworm infections are caused by contaminated food or water. Swallowed tapeworm eggs are transferred from the intestine and form cysts in body tissues and organs. The tapeworm larvae can grow into adult tapeworms and survive in the intestine.
When to seek medical help?
Please contact the doctor in the following cases:
The child has diarrhea or nausea for more than 2 weeks
If the child is in a nursery, has recently been to another country, or has consumed contaminated water, be sure to inform the doctor
Maintaining good hygiene is the best way to prevent parasites. Children, family members and nurseries should develop the following healthy habits:
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after changing diapers, going to the toilet, or going out to play.
- Avoid drinking potentially contaminated water and boil or filter it.
- Change bed linen regularly.
- Wash your child’s toys with disinfectant.
- Change underwear regularly.
- Try not to swallow water when swimming in a swimming pool, lake or river.
- Pinworm eggs are sensitive to light and open blinds or curtains during the day.
- Parasites will survive in the intestines or other parts of the body and often reproduce.
- Poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water increase the risk of intestinal parasite infection.
- Symptoms of sick children include watery diarrhea, fatigue and nausea.
- Treatment includes taking oral medicine.
- Maintaining good hygiene is the best way to prevent parasites.
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