Roundworms are parasites that live in the human body where they feed and reproduce. They are far rarer than threadworms (pinworms) and are roughly the same size as an earth worm. They often don’t cause any noticeable symptoms and only get spotted when a person sees one in their stools (poo).
What causes roundworm?
Roundworm occurs if you swallow roundworm eggs. Eggs may get swallowed in contaminated food, drink or if the soil in which the food was grown was already contaminated.
Once swallowed the eggs live in your small intestine until they hatch. Then they move through the intestine wall into the bloodstream where they travel to the lungs and then the throat. After being swallowed in the throat they move back to the small intestine where they mature into adults.
They can live for up to two years and female worms can lay up to 200,000 eggs a day - these get released into your faeces (poo).
They are more common in places with overcrowding and poor hygiene.
One rare but notorious type of roundworm from dogs (Toxocara canis) can cause a disease known as toxocariasis which can affect the eyes, brain, lungs and liver. This is why it is critical to keep dogs away from children’s play areas.
How is roundworm treated?
- Roundworm is treated with prescribed medicine.
- Mebednazole is suitable for those aged one or over. It works by cutting off the roundworms’ supply of glucose (energy) causing them to quickly die.
- Piperazine, available as a dissolvable powder, is suitable for babies aged three or over and works by paralysing the worms until they are pushed out of the bowel.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
Roundworm can be prevented through good hygiene. Wash your hand thoroughly after using the toilet, changing a nappy, touching soil and before preparing and eating food. If travelling to countries with a hot climate where sanitation is poor take extra precautions, including: drinking only bottled or boiled water, avoiding raw fruit and veg and washing your hands if you touch soil.