Cough, hoarseness, shortness of breath and general weakness are symptoms of colds, but not only. Infection with human roundworms can cause similar symptoms. How do we distinguish between these two diseases? advise.
- How do parasites enter our bodies?
- What symptoms may indicate a parasitic infection?
- How do we avoid infection with parasites?
Infection with human roundworm eggs (lat. Ascaris lumbricoides man) may resemble a cold. Symptoms that usually appear when infected with these parasites are:
In addition, there may also be:
To understand the relationship of cough to parasites, we need to trace the mechanism of their infection.
How do parasites enter our bodies?
Human roundworm eggs enter the intestine with food (for example, when eating unwashed fruits or vegetables), touching the mouth with dirty hands, or when inhaling air in dry and windy weather (for example, when walking through a dung field, when there is a cloud from dust, and with it the eggs of parasites). The larvae hatch in the intestine and enter the blood through the walls of the intestine, and then into the liver and lungs. From the lungs, they pass through the bronchial wall (where the cartilaginous part of the bronchi ends), then the larvae pass through the bronchi, trachea and larynx to the pharynx. By following this path, they irritate the cough receptors, which is effective Persistent cough that cannot be suppressed with any medication. This is when the larvae are swallowed again. They enter the intestine again, but this time they mature, mate and lay eggs. It takes about two weeks. Eggs laid by mature parasites are excreted in the digestive tract in the feces.
What symptoms may indicate a parasitic infection?
During this journey, the parasites cause swelling and inflammatory reactions in the organs they come into contact with (including the intestines, liver, lungs, bronchi, larynx, larynx, and even the brain or skin). As a result, there are symptoms that may resemble Colds (cough, shortness of breath, hoarseness, sometimes even hemoptysis), but not only. When infected with parasites, skin problems (rash and itching), problems with concentration, hyperactivity, and sleep problems may appear. Nervous system disorders may occur in children, incl. convulsions and epileptic fits;
In the advanced stage of the disease (ascariasis), abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea or persistent constipation, flatulence may also appear. The patient may have anemia, be underweight, and in case of severe infection, there may be complete intestinal obstruction. Stray larvae can also nest in organs unusual for a roundworm, for example in the eye, ear, brain, liver and spleen there, they are encapsulated, creating the so-called worm nodules.
So if the above symptoms appear, and no treatment for the symptoms helps, it is useful to do a stool test for parasite eggs or a blood test for IgG antibodies that the body produces after contact with the parasites. If the diagnosis is confirmed and it turns out that we are infected with human roundworms. The doctor will order appropriate treatment (including the administration of antiparasitic agents).
How do we avoid infection with parasites?
- Take care of proper hygiene. It is not only about washing your hands thoroughly before touching your face or mouth, but also about washing foods thoroughly before eating them.
- Avoid places where there is a risk of inhaling parasite eggs (sheds and fields where manure has been spilled), especially in the dry season.
- Improving the condition of the intestinal flora and supporting the immune system. Thanks to this, the eggs of parasites, even if they enter the intestine, will be destroyed by the immune system and by bacteria that are part of the intestinal microflora.
Source: “Tame Your Allergies. Where Stressful Illnesses Come From and How to Deal With Them”, Danuta Mył, MD, PhD, Burda Books 2018
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