Coughing Up Worms: Causes and Treatment

If you are coughing up large amounts of worms or “expectorating” large amounts of worms, you should go to a doctor immediately. This is a sign of a serious intestinal infection, called Ascariasis. Ascariasis is caused by a parasitic round worm. Other symptoms of severe infestation include vomiting, shortness of breath, abdominal distention or swelling of the abdomen, intestinal blockage, and bilary tract blockage, this includes the liver and gallbladder. Symptoms of a mild infestation are worms in the stool, fever, wheezing, loss of appetite, and coughing up small amounts of worms.
It is important to note that Ascariasis is not spread directly from one person to another. To become infected, an individual has to consume the worm’s eggs. Although rond worm is not common in the U.S. due to strict sanitation rules and regulations, it is still possible to come in contat with round worm through contaminated soil (possibly from fruits and vegetables), poor hygiene, and poor sanitary conditions. Children are especially susceptible to round worm infection simply because they tend to put things into their mouths, including dirt and they have poorer hygiene habits than adults.

What is Round Worm?

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Round worm, also spelled “roundworm” or called “nematode,” is the common name for any of a phylum of unsegmented terrestrial, marine or freshwater worms. Round worms make up the phylum Nematoda and there are approximately 12,000 known species of round worms and thousands of unknown species exist. Many include the Gordian worms or the “Horsehair Worm” as a subclass, but others group them separately.

While round worms are free-living, parasitic forms of the round worm represent the greatest risk. Ascaroid nematodes, an important group of parasitic round worms includes the threadworms and the common puppy worm. Another parasitic round worm is the eelworm, which produces root knot of cotton. Others produce earcockle of wheat. The parasitic forms that produce earcockle of wheat belong to the genus Tylenchus. Threadworms belong to the genus Ascaris. The puppy worm is classified as Toxocara canis and eelworms belong to the genus Heterodera.

Other groups of round worms that pose great medical risks include the various genera known as hookworm. These include the filaria, the cause of elephantiasis; the trichina worm, which causes trichinosis; and the whipworm, which infests the human intestine. The human whipworm is classified as Trichuris trichiura and the trichina worm belongs to the genus Trichinella.

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Round worms cylindrical bodies consist of an interior gut and a muscular outer wall. The gut and the outerwall are separated by a fluid-filled cavity called a pseudocoel. The outer wall secretes an elastic cuticle. This cuticle molts roughly four times during the round worms lifetime. Round worm species range in size from microscopic to about 4 inches long. While some round worms are hermaphroditic, like most worm species, oddly most round worm species have separate sexes and fertilization is internal. Young round worms develop without metamorphosis.

There are several treatments for round worms. According to MedicineHealth:

“Albendazole (Albenza) is the most common treatment for round worms. Treatment is a single tablet, which kills the worms. There are different strengths for adults and children younger than 2 years. To lessen the chance of reinfection, the infected person will have to take a second dose two weeks after treatment. Round worm eggs can survive for a few weeks. Other treatments such as Mebendazole (Vermox) and pyrantel pamoate (Pin-Rid, Pin-X) also work. They are also taken in a single dose and repeated 2 weeks later.”

There are several things that must be done after treatment (and beyond) to prevent reinfection. The treated individual should:

·Avoid biting the fingernails.
·Clean and vacuum play areas. Continue this practice indefinitely.
·Get into the habit of thoroughly washing the hands after using the bathroom, before and after eating, and before preparing food.
·Launder all bedding every 3-7 days for 3 weeks.
·Make sure the child or infected person changes his/her underwear daily.
·Thoroughly wash all bedding, clothing, pajamas, and toys with hot water and soap to destroy any lingering eggs.
·Wash underwear and pajamas daily for 2 weeks.

If you have been treated for round worms and you have followed all of the steps listed above carefully and you still become reinfected, do not get discouraged. It is common to become reinfected several months or so after treatment. Simply call your doctor to get started on another round of treatment.

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