( By Dr. H.K.Bakhru )
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The worms and other intestinal parasites which infest human beings are more common in tropical and subtropical areas. Most of these worms and parasites gain entry into the body either through the mouth or through the skin of the feet. Children are more prone to infection from these worms than adults.
There ar several types of intestinal worms. The most commonly noticed parasites in India are roundworms, hookworms, threadworms and tape-worms. Roundworms are giant intestinal parasites measuring 15 to 25 cms. in length. They are off-white in colour and are most frequently infect children. Eggs produced by them are passed in stools. Roundworm eggs may remain alive in the soil for many months.
Hookworms are small worms measuring one cm. long. They attach themselves to the walls of intestines within the bowel. They cause serious bleeding, and poison the patient as well. Pinworms are small white worms about 6.35 cm. in length.
Threadworms are small thread-like creatures which can be noticed in the stools of children. The female worm, one cm. in length, moves at night to anal canal to lay its eggs. More than 30 different types of tapeworm infections may affect the human body. Some tapeworms are only a few inches long, others measure from ten to 30 feet or more in length.
The usual symptoms of intestinal worms are diarrhoea, foul breath, dark circles under the eyes, constant desire for food, restlessness at night with bad dreams, anemia and headache. Infants and young children are likely to be irritated all the time and are prone to throw tantrums at the slightest excuse.
Roundworms may give rise to inflammation of the intestine and lungs. The usual symptoms are diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, loss of weight, fever, nervousness and irritability. Children with hookworm disease appear pale and are often weak. They may give rise to nutritional disorders. Threadworms may cause an intense itching in the areas around the anus. Tapeworms and roundworms may cause convulsion in children.
Threadworms infection which is very common in children, may cause periodic bouts of diarrhoea, itching around anal area, alternating with constipation, loss of weight, cough and fever.
The eggs of these parasites are introduced into the human system through the medium of food or water, especially under cooked or badly-cooked meat. Roundworms are caused by eating contaminated foods. If the soil in which chldren play becomes contaminated with the eggs of these parasites, they are easily transferred to the mouth through dirty fingers, particularly by children living in unhygenic conditions. There is always a greater danger of contamination where human wastes are used in fertilizing vegetables. Great care should therefore be taken to ensure that all foods are thoroughly cleansed and properly cooked before use.
Hookworms enter the human body through skin from infected water. Pnworms and threadworms transmission result from dirty fingers and food. Tapeworms are transmitted to the body through under-cooked flesh foods.
The real cause of intestinal worms, however, is the use of contaminated food or water. The eggs of these worms, can breed in the intestine only if they find a suitable medium for their propogation. This medium is an intestinal tract clogged with morbid matter and systemic refuse due to wrong freeding habits.
The modern medical system prescribes drugs to kill the parasites. They may give temporary relief, but they are more likely to harm the digestive process and create other complications. Nature cure methods, on the other hand, aim at strengthening the intestine so as to purge the parasites.
The treatment for intestinal worms should begin with diet. The child-patient should be kept on exclusive diet of fresh fruits for two days or so. If possible, a small warm-water enema, mixed with the juice of half a fresh lime, may be administered daily during this period to cleanse the bowels. This would help expel mucus and threadworms from the intestine. Bed clothes of the patient must be exposed to sun everyday and he should stay in a well-ventilated room.
After spending two or three days on exclusive fresh fruit diet, the child may be allowed to take raw and boiled vegetables in addition to fruits. This diet may be continued for two or three days, after which he may be allowed to have porridge, or gruel. Thereafter, he may gradually embark upon a well-balanced light diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, milk and wholemeal bread. The diet should exclude fatty foods such as butter, cream, and oil, refined foods and all flesh foods. This diet should be continued till the parasites are completely eliminated. Mud packs and cold compresses applied to lower part of the abdomen will help in the initial stages of the treatment.
Several home remedies have been found beneficial in the treatment of intestinal worms. Of these, the use of coconut is most effective. It is an ancient remedy for expelling all kinds of intestinal worms. A teaspoon of the freshly-ground coconut should be taken at breakfast. This should be allowed by a dose of 15 to 30 ml. of castor oil mixed in 125 to 175 ml. of lukewarm milk after three hours. The process may be repeated till the cure is complete.
Garlic has been used for expelling intestinal worms from ancient times. The juice of one or two garlic cloves, mixed in half a cup of fruit or vegetable juice, can be given. It will kill the parasites without harming the patient.
The carrot (gajar) is valuable in the elimination of threadworms in children as it is offensive to all parasites. A small cup of grated carrot taken every morning, with no other food added to the meal, can clear these worms quickly.
The digestive enzyme papaia in the milky juice of the unripe papaya (papita) is a powerful anthelmintic for destroying roundworms. A teaspoon of fresh papaya juice and equal quantity of honey should be mixed with two tablespoons of hot water and given as dose to children in the age group of seven to 10 years.
This should be followed two hours later by a dose of castor oil as in case of ground coconut. This treatment should be repeated for two days, if necessary.
The child-patient should be given dry friction bath daily during the period of treatment to build-up general health. Older children should also be encouraged to take alternate hot and cold hip baths daily. The procedure for taking these baths has been explained in the Appendix.