We received a straightforward, if strangely worded, question from a reader a few days ago about eating worms, or rather inadvertently swallowing a worm. The question is quite short, and can be quoted (with some crucial punctuation added) in its entirety: “I swallowed a worm by mistake while eating dadles – I’m at risk? Do I have to see a doctor?” There’s at least a couple of questions in here, and we aren’t sure how to make sense of every part of it, but at bottom the reader is clearly concerned with the implications of swallowing a worm. We will therefore focus on whether or not it is dangerous to swallow a worm, and whether doing so mandates a trip to the doctor.
We must begin by saying that we actually can’t answer the second part of issue, the part about visiting a doctor, in any meaningful way because we aren’t medical doctors. We therefore can’t offer any medical advice, apart from insisting that you should visit a doctor if you have concerns about your health. Obviously, this would include any concerning symptoms that follow the accidental consumption of a worm. It certainly may not be necessary to visit a doctor after swallowing a worm, but medical assistance and advice should be sought when you have a problem, and obviously we can’t provide this.
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There are two components of our reader’s question that we are unsure about, one minor and one of more consequence. Taking the former first, we don’t know what the reader means by “dadles.” Perhaps we are missing something obvious, but when we searched this word, we only found out that “DADLE” is a synthetic opioid peptide, and presumably our reader wasn’t referring to his consumption of a highly obscure chemical compound. “Dadles” also means “give them” in Spanish. (The verb, “dar,” is in the second person plural form and is written in the imperative mood, and “les” means “them”; thus, a phrase like “dadles vosotros de comer,” an expression that appears in both the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Mark, means “(you all) give them something to eat,” to provide as much unnecessary information as possible). We presume, on the basis of metaphysical coherence, that our reader wasn’t eating a Spanish verb phrase.
The main detail we are missing from our reader is the kind of worm he is talking about, or whether he is even talking about a worm. We have actually written about people accidentally eating “worms” before, and in at least one of these instances – involving a precooked piece of ham – we were reasonably confident the reader had in fact found a larva, not a worm. Moreover, in the places where entomophagy (the consumption of insects as food) is widely practiced, like the Philippines, insects or insect larvae are generally eaten, not worms (even though lots of insect larvae are called “worms.”)
We therefore aren’t sure what our reader means when he uses the word “worm,” and this could be of relevance to his question. Most obviously, something that is poisonous is of more concern than something that isn’t, but there are other factors as well. Worms and larvae live in different sorts of environments, for example, and the more unsanitary the environment, the greater the likelihood of ingesting a pathogen. This last factor gives rise to a more general point, which is that even if a worm/larva is itself totally safe to eat – if it is an innocuous piece of protein and nothing else – it might be carrying something harmful on or in its body. Similarly, a harmful worm/larva could be rendered harmless depending on the circumstances in which it is eaten. If is fully cooked, for example, it is likely safe, as cooking tends to kill any sort of harmful bacteria. So, a lot depends on the circumstances in which the worm/larva was found, and in fact this could be just as important, or even more important, than what kind of worm he ate.
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Overall, then, we can’t offer our reader any sort of definite advice, except that he should visit a doctor if his health begins to deteriorate after swallowing the worm. Of course, we don’t expect it to deteriorate, and there is a decent chance that swallowing a worm will have no impact on his health whatsoever, but this is the only observation we can make.