What are roundworms?
Roundworms are parasites that need the human body in order to survive. They get the name roundworm from their long, smooth, cylindrical shape.
They belong to a group of parasitic worms called helminths, particularly soil-transmitted helminths (STH).
Ascariasis, the most prevalent roundworm infection in humans, is named after the roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides (A. lumbricoides). Other roundworm infections include pinworm infections and trichinellosis.
How do humans get roundworm infections from pets?
When pets eat soil with roundworm eggs or larvae, they can get infected. The worm eggs and larvae then end up in their feces, contaminating the soil and plants.
You could get a roundworm infection from your dog or cat if you accidentally swallow these eggs without washing your hands thoroughly after gardening, handling dirty soil, or pet poop.
Who is at risk of getting a roundworm infection?
Children and pregnant women are most at risk of getting infected with roundworms. People who live in, or visit a tropical country may also be at a higher risk of a roundworm infection.
Usually, a roundworm infection does cause any symptoms in humans. However, when there are large numbers of worms in the intestine, roundworm symptoms may include:
- Persistent vomiting
- Finding worms in feces
- Blood in the feces
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the abdomen.
How to treat a roundworm infection?
In many cases, roundworms travel through various organs like the liver but may not cause much damage. However, in severe cases, the worms can damage the eye, which could lead to permanent blindness.
Roundworm infections are often treated by anthelmintic medications like albendazole and mebendazole.
How to prevent a roundworm infection?
Prevention really is the cure with worm infections.
Here are some ways to protect yourself and loved ones from roundworm infections:
- Take household pets like puppies and kittens to regular visits to the vet
- Avoid touching soil, dirt, and pet waste with your bare hands
- Practice washing your hands thoroughly before you touch food or eat. This is especially important for children, who may be at a higher risk of getting infected.