Signs and Symptoms of Parasitic Worms in Humans

Updated November 21, 2016

Intestinal parasitic worms are organisms that infect the human body and are most common in warm climates. These roundworms or nematodes have long, round bodies and may or may not be visible to the naked eye. Most of the eggs or larvae are found in soil and transferred to the body through the mouth or skin. Infection mostly occurs through careless hygiene and poor sanitation measures. Roundworm infections cause mild to severe symptoms.

Pin Worms/Enterobiasis

Pin worms are most commonly found in children, usually entering the body from unwashed hands that are exposed to the eggs. The worms are small, resemble thread and are usually found in the rectum and colon. Symptoms rarely occur other than anal itching. Due to the risk of spreading the infection from eggs, all household members should take a course of medication, such as mebendazole and pyrantel pamoate. Cleaning the environment and changing clothes, linens and towels frequently are recommended.

Round Worms/Ascariasis

Round worms can grow up to 13 inches long and are pencil-thick in diameter. Once inside the body, these worms reproduce and can cause very serious health problems. A small amount of worms can cause some abdominal cramping while many parasitic worms can cause severe pain and vomiting. The worms also cause intestinal blockage, sleep disturbance and restlessness. Any time many larvae enter the lungs, they can cause a pneumonia-like illness. A course of mebendazole, albendazole, or pyrantel pamoate will stop the infection.

Hook Worms/Ancylostomiasis

Hook worms usually enter the body through the skin, especially bare feet Once inside, they are carried by the bloodstream to the lungs, then the windpipe and swallowed into the intestine.The first sign of hook worm infection will be an itchy patch where it entered. An infected person will experience diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal and intestinal cramping or pain and colic. Treatment includes a course of mebendazole or albendazole.

Whip Worms/Trichuriasis

A mild case of whip worms is likely not to produce symptoms. However, if this long, whip-shaped worm has significantly grown in the intestines, diarrhoea, bloody stools, stomach pain and weight loss can occur. Treatment includes a course of mebendazole or albendazole.

Trichinella Spiralis

This parasitic round worm causes trichinosis, a disease caused by ingesting undercooked pork or pork products. Symptoms such as muscle and joint ache or mild stomach ache can be overlooked because they mimic symptoms of other illnesses. A significant amount of worms will cause muscular rheumatism, preceded by symptoms similar to food poisoning. Infection is diagnosed by a blood test or examining muscle tissue. There is no treatment for the infection; however, anti-parasite medicines can be used to rid the body of some of the worms. A doctor may also give medications to help relieve symptoms.

Strongyloides Stercoralis

This parasite can remain in the body for 40 years without detection. A moderate infection may cause a burning abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea and sometimes diarrhoea with alternating constipation. Severe cases can cause chronic diarrhoea, weight loss and anaemia. Thiabendazole, ivermectin and albendazole are medicines used to treat infection.

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