Roundworm is a parasitic organism that inhabits internal organs, usually gastrointestinal tract or lungs, of both animals and humans. It is much more commonly seen in animals but cases of roundworm in humans are not rare either.
About roundworm infection
The infection with roundworm is called ascariasis, from the Latin name for this parasite, Ascaris lumbricoides. The infection occurs after swallowing ascaris eggs from contaminated food or water. The problem with this infection is that it is often asymptomatic, meaning there are no noticeable symptoms or signs that the parasite is there. If there are symptoms, they usually involve fever and dry cough in the first four to sixteen days upon consuming contaminated food, and abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting later on.
The prognosis for this infection is very good. There is a wide range of medications that can be used to destroy the parasite very effectively. However, if a person has swallowed a great number of roundworm eggs or if the parasite has spread to other parts of the body, there is a risk of complications and hospital care is required.
Prevention of roundworm
The basic form of prevention against roundworm infection is good personal hygiene. It is very important to frequently wash hands with warm or hot water and soap and to use disposable paper towels for drying the hands. Washing the hands is particularly important after using a toilet, changing diapers and before preparing and eating food.
There are certain parts of the world where there is a greater chance of contracting roundworm, because of poor sanitary conditions. Therefore, it is recommended to be extra careful when traveling to such places. Areas with widespread roundworm include China, India, Indonesia, sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, South America and Middle East.
When traveling to those parts of the world it is essential to only drink bottled water, to frequently wash hands, to eat foods prepared in trusted establishments and to avoid all kinds of raw food, including fruit and vegetables. Meat should only be eaten if it is cooked all the way through and steaming hot. Eating reheated foods is not recommended.
Roundworm infection at children
Roundworm seems to be more common in children than in adults, because they have a better chance of ingesting contaminated materials. It is important that the parents take special care of their children and to teach them not to touch the mouth with dirty hands and not to eat anything off the floor.