Parasites found in contaminated food and water are barely visible, if visible at all, but the trouble they cause may be very serious. In the United States alone, one-third of nearly six thousand fecal specimens tested came back positive for nineteen species of intestinal parasites, according to the Parasitology Center, Inc. (PCI) in Tempe, Arizona. Three main types of parasites are the roundworm, tapeworm and protozoa.
Dermatologic manifestations parallel those present in the gastrointestinal tract. Scabies, fleas and lice are parasites that show up on the surface of the skin.
- Roundworm symptoms spread by undercooked pork or wild game show up within two days of eating with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. There may be head and muscle aches that mimic flu symptoms, as well as itchy skin.
- Pork and beef tapeworm disturbs the digestive system as well, but if larvae travel throughout the body, other organs can be infected numerous symptoms.
- Lice and other crawling parasites appear as tiny, slow moving crawlers on the hair and scalp. The result of infestation is a papular rash with extreme itching.
Who is at risk?
Undercooked meat is the largest contributor of worm infestations. Parasites are also common in drinking water and those who travel to other countries are wide open to infection. Lice, scabies and fleas are spread from person to person, through contact with animals or even the sharing of hats or clothing.
A physician can suggest an over the counter medicated shampoo for lice treatment. Intestinal worms are more difficult to eradicate. A physician may order a string test to determine the presence of parasites, examining the results in the stool for the presence of parasites and their eggs. Treatment may include a number of over the counter medications to treat the symptoms or prescription anti-helminthic drugs to kill the parasites. The symptoms you experience are also an indication the body is working to get rid of the infection.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
If symptoms worsen rapidly, emergency medical attention may be needed.
Treatment for parasitic infestation is available now at OnPoint Urgent Care in Aurora, Highlands Ranch, or Lone Tree Colorado.
For more information on parasite infestations, see the following websites:
CDC Report on Lice
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