Summertime is berry time - everyone is looking forward to fresh strawberries and redcurrants. But invisible hazards in the form of fox tapeworm eggs can cloud the enjoyment of fresh fruits. And dog and cat owners should be extra cautious about worm diseases.
Worms as parasites
Helminths is the term for worms. Roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, pinworms, they and many others live in their own world - usually as parasites in the intestines of other living things such as dogs and cats - and in humans, there in very different organs such as lungs or liver. Two billion people worldwide are attacked by hookworms, whips and roundworms. The most common intestinal worm, the roundworm, occurs all over the world. It is estimated that about every fourth person worldwide has roundworms.
The infection is caused by worm eggs or their larvae, the maggots. They can develop in the human organism to reproducible parasites, which in turn lay eggs and multiply. With the chair worms, worm parts or eggs are eliminated. Pinworm plays a role in our northern latitudes.
Pinworms in children often
The relatively harmless pinworm infections usually infect small children because they touch everything and seldom wash their hands voluntarily. The up to one centimeter long, white pinworm colonize thin and parts of the colon. At night, the females leave the intestine for oviposition, which leads to itching on the anus, associated with skin redness and scratch marks. After scratching, the eggs can re-enter the mouth and intestines. Occasionally, inflammation of the intestine occurs, after some time the child looks pale and has less appetite.
If there is a suspicion of a worm infection - for example, if one discovers white threads in the excretions -, one should go to the doctor, who determines the type of worm via a faeces sample. Usually, a single drug intake is sufficient, which is repeated as a precaution after one to two weeks. Family members are usually treated prophylactically.
In addition, hygiene is particularly important: daily showering, regular hand washing, short fingernails and fresh bed linen during therapy.
Worm infection protects against atopic dermatitis
Interesting in this context is a message from the Robert Koch Institute: An excess of hygiene in children weakens the immune system: For example, if children have undergone a worm infection, it is similar to many atopic dermatitis patients to increase the immunoglobulin E (IgE), which one can determine from the blood. It is assumed that the IgE could now be - after improving the hygienic conditions in the western countries - quasi "misguided".
The "hygiene hypothesis" is further supported by the fact that children who live on farms rarely suffer from atopic dermatitis. In these children actually worm infections are found more frequently, which cause an increased IgE. In a recent study of African children, infants with chronic worm infections had much less eczema than children who had no signs of worm infection.