- Complications and Side Effects
What is a tapeworm infection?
People around the world are quite often infected with parasites, including worms. There are different kinds of parasitic worms that will invade your body if given the chance. One of them is the tapeworm. The good news is that it is not that hard to rid yourself of tapeworms if you discover that you have been infected.
Tapeworms are flatworms that can live in your digestive system. The tapeworm finds its way into your intestines. It then attaches its head to the inner wall and feeds on the food that you are digesting.
Types of tapeworms
The types of tapeworms that are known to infect people are usually identified by the animals that they come from. They include:
- The pork tapeworm (taenia solium)
- The beef tapeworm (taenia saginata)
- The fish tapeworm (diphyllobothrium latum)
- The dwarf tapeworm (hymenolepis nana)
- The dog tapeworm (echinococcus granulosus)
Symptoms of a tapeworm infection
You may have a tapeworm infection and not feel anything for some time. This may go on for months or even years. When you finally notice that you have a tapeworm you may experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Belly (abdomen) pain
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency
You may also see a piece or the tapeworm in your feces or feel it coming out through your anus.
Causes of a tapeworm infection
Tapeworms often infect you through contact with contaminated human feces found in water, food, or soil. Your child may get this infection by eating undercooked or raw meat which contains live tapeworms.
You can also get a tapeworm infection from an infected person. This may happen if you eat food prepared by someone with tapeworms.
Tapeworm eggs pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and can find their way onto their host’s hands. If the person does not wash their hands well after going to the bathroom, they will transfer the tapeworm to the food that they handle.
Diagnosis for tapeworm infection
Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose a tapeworm infection.
When you visit your doctor, they may ask you if you have noticed any worm segments in your feces. Your doctor may also examine your anus. They may ask you for a stool sample which they will have analyzed by a lab for tapeworm eggs.
This analysis typically involves three different stool specimens taken on three different days. The eggs are identified with a microscope. Be aware that it can take up to two to three months following infection before tapeworm eggs are detectable in your fecal matter.
Treatments for a tapeworm infection
After your doctor confirms that you have this parasite they may prescribe the following medications to get rid of your tapeworms:
In rare cases, tapeworms can lead to serious complications. These include blocking your intestines or the smaller ducts in your GI tract, such as the bile or pancreatic ducts.
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Preventing a tapeworm infection
Here are some of the ways that you can protect yourself from or reduce the risk of a tapeworm infection:
- Wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after using the bathroom
- Avoid eating raw meat, including fish
- Always ensure that you thoroughly cook meat, including fish
- Freeze any raw meat that you purchase to kill any tapeworm eggs prior to cooking and consuming
- Avoid eating raw vegetables
- Wash your hands with soap and hot water before preparing or eating
Complications and side effects of tapeworm treatments
Some of the medications used to get rid of tapeworms may cause harmful side effects.
Seek emergency medical assistance if you experience the following symptoms of a serious allergic reaction:
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Healthy Children: "Tapeworms."
HSE: "Diphyllobothrium latum."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Tapeworm."
Kids Health: "Tapeworm."
Mayo Clinic: "Praziquantel (Oral Route)."
NPS MEDICINEWISE: "Albendazole (Zentel) listing extended to treat hookworm and strongyloidiasis."
World Health Organization: "What you need to know about tapeworm infections."
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