Ascariasis is a parasitic infestation caused by the helminth or roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides. Ascariasis is the most common human infection caused by worms in the world. Adult male worms are 15 to 25 cm in length, and adult females are 25 to 35 cm. As they grow, the worms can rise to the thickness of a pencil and can live for one to two years.

Ascariasis is not common in the US. It has a variable incidence throughout the world, being much higher in areas with unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions. Ascariasis is contracted when worm eggs are ingested, frequently found in soil, soil, and human feces. Eggs can be eaten by consuming contaminated food or drink or putting contaminated objects or parts of the body in the mouth.

Signs and symptoms

Although this infestation may not give any symptoms, the greater the number of worms involved, the more severe the symptoms suffered by the affected person. Children are more likely than adults to develop gastrointestinal symptoms because their intestines are smaller, and they are at higher risk of developing intestinal obstruction. Signs of a light infestation include:

Worms in stool
Cough with the expulsion of worms
Loss of appetite
Wheezing (making "whistles" when breathing)

More severe infestations can lead to more worrisome signs and symptoms, including:

Shortness of breath or shortness of breath
Bloating (abdominal bloating)
Severe abdominal pain
Intestinal obstruction
Obstruction of the bile ducts (including the liver and gallbladder)


Ascariasis is much more common in developing countries where sanitary conditions are poor and in areas where human feces are used as compost. When the eggs are ingested and reach the intestine, they hatch and become larvae. The larvae then begin to move through the body.

Once they pass through the intestinal wall, the larvae pass through the liver to the bloodstream. Pulmonary symptoms such as coughing may appear (worms can even be expelled when coughing). In the lungs, the larvae ascend through the bronchi to the throat, where they are swallowed. They then return to the small intestine, where they grow, mature, reproduce, and lay eggs. The worms reach maturity about two months after the person eats the eggs.

Adult worms live and remain in the small intestine. A female worm can produce up to 240,000 eggs a day, shed in the feces, and then enter an incubation period that lasts for several weeks. Children are particularly susceptible to ascariasis because they tend to put things in their mouths, including dirt, and their hygiene habits are often poorer than those of adults.

Ascariasis is more common in hot or tropical climates, especially in developing countries, affecting large segments of the population. Ascariasis is very rare in the US and other developed countries due to the strict health laws and regulations in force.

Symptoms usually disappear within the first week of treatment.

Ascariasis cannot be spread directly from one person to another. To get the infestation, a person has to ingest roundworm eggs.

The most important protective measure against ascariasis is the safe and hygienic disposal of human excrement, transmitting eggs. Human feces is used as compost, and all food must be thoroughly cooked and cleaned with an appropriate iodine solution (mainly fruits and vegetables).

Children adopted from developing countries are often screened for worms as a precaution. Children living in underdeveloped areas may be prescribed antiparasitic medication as a preventive treatment. The following practices are recommended for all children:

Try as much as possible to prevent your child from putting things in his mouth.
Teach your child to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after using the toilet and before meals.

When to call the pediatrician

If your child has any symptoms of ascariasis, you should contact the pediatrician immediately. They will ask you to collect a stool sample from the child, which will be sent to a laboratory to determine if they contain eggs and worms to confirm the diagnosis.

If your child has been diagnosed with ascariasis and prescribed treatment, you should call your pediatrician if symptoms do not improve or if he develops new symptoms.

Professional treatment

Your child’s pediatrician will likely prescribe oral deworming medications to get rid of pinworms. Sometimes the stool is retested about three weeks after applying the treatment to determine if it contains eggs and worms. It is necessary to surgically remove the worms (particularly in intestinal obstruction, obstruction of the liver passages, or abdominal infection). If your child has ascariasis, they will need to be tested to see if she has other intestinal parasites, such as pinworms.

Home treatment

If your child has ascariasis, you should give him the medicine prescribed by the doctor, following the instructions he shows you exactly. To avoid possible reinfestations, the following precautions are recommended:

Make sure your child washes his hands well, especially after using the toilet and before meals.
Take regular family pets to the vet to be checked for worms.
Keep your child's nails short and clean.
Sterilize any contaminated clothing, such as pajamas and bedding.
Assess the source of the infection. Additional hygiene measures may be necessary for or around your home.
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