Worm your kids. You’re welcome.
You’d be surprised at not only how common worm infestations are in kids, but also how much something like worms can do to your kids. It can affect their behaviour, sleep, energy levels and more.
And by the way, you don’t have to have an itchy bum to have worms. If you suspect that your kid (or yourself) might have worms, then you need to have a look. I’ll talk more about what the symptoms of worms can be, and what symptoms it can cause below.
I find gastro-intestinal infections to be a key driver for many symptoms in children, but especially so in mental and behavioural health. Taking herbs and nutrients for brain health to improve behavioural problems is all well and good, but if you’re not treating the cause you will be pursuing and endless journey.
Signs and Symptoms of Worms
Symptoms of a worm infection can include, but does not have to be all of these:
- Mood swings, anger and violence
- Digestive pain
- Disturbed sleep
- Teeth grinding
- Nose picking
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite and/or fussy eating
- Iron deficiency
- Vulval irritation and pain, itching or discharge
- Food cravings and a relentless appetite
- Urinary incontinence (more common in girls)
The key age group for worms is 7-11 years of age, but any person regardless of age can get worms. If worm infestations become chronic or recurring, that can be a sign of deeper digestive and immune imbalance.
The mature female worm travels through the digestive system (6 cm every 30 minutes) and will typically leave the anus to lay eggs along the perineum. The larvae will cause itching and irritation, and kids will often scratch down there during their sleep, potentially re-consuming the eggs or larvae (continuing the cycle) by putting their fingers in their mouth or nose.
How do you know if your kid has worms?
A skilled practitioner can find clues to a gut infection through standard blood tests – one of the reasons I ask all my patients to bring recent copies of blood tests along to blood tests. Other more complicated stool analysis tests can give you information about the state of the digestive system, but when it comes to looking for confirmation of worms, the best thing is to have a look yourself. I warn you, none of these methods is going to be delightful.
Method 1: Use some sticky tape on the skin around anus first thing in the morning. Do this for three days in a row. If you can see little white balls, this is likely worm eggs, and confirmation of an infestation. You can then take this tape to your doctor to look at under the microscope for confirmation but often you will be able to tell yourself.
Method 2: In the middle of the night when the female worm is out laying her eggs it’s possible to see her in the midst of her adventure. Use a torch, sneak in and try not to wake your kid, and have a look at the bottom. It looks like a small white thread.
Method 3: Look in the toilet bowl. Sometimes you can see evidence of worms that have been pooped out. But this technique is only going to show up in more severe cases.
How to get rid of worms.
Let’s face it. Kid’s are gross. It can be disturbing to think of but kids will often have some trace of faecal matter on their fingers which they transfer to their mouths at some point. Various studies have found that worm eggs are found under finger nails of kids and can contamination is also often found in their bed sheet, toys and pyjamas.
There are lots of things you need to do to reduce re-contamination. Keep nails short, and
nag try to encourage them not to put their fingers in their mouth.
If your kid does have worms: wash pjs and sheets in hot water, and wear a mask and gloves when doing so because when you change the sheets you’ve got a good chance of breathing in the eggs. Eww. Underwear may need to be ironed to kill any eggs if cases are more persistent.
I don’t object to the common worming treatment available in chemists on a semi-regular basis (don’t forget to repeat the course), but there are herbal options available if you need or prefer them. It is however possible for the worms to become resistant to conventional options which can make things very tricky as the common chemist option isn’t going to work.
If you think about how far these worms can travel when they exit the anus at night, you can understand why there can be issues with the urinary tract related to this. It’s an important thing to consider with young girls with frequent issues in this area, but also worth considering for older women with unexplained urinary and menstrual concerns.
If the case becomes persistent or chronic, more needs to be done to support digestive health – chat with your practitioner about this.
And here’s another consideration, many supplements such as probiotics that are common for gut health can actually perpetuate chronic worm infestations because it dampens the immune response – an action that is fantastic in any other instance, but not appropriate right now.