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National Deworming Day: How Are Children Infected By Worms And Role Of Hygiene In Reducing The Infection

Over 1.5 billion people worldwide are infected by intestinal worms, also known as Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In India, nearly 241 million children between the ages of 1 and 14 predicted to be at risk of being infected

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The Banega Swasth India team spoke to Dr Sivaranjani Santosh, Paediatrician at Magna Centres in Hyderabad and Dr. Sabina Kapasi, Advisor, Public Health and Healthcare Services Strategist, United Nations Covid Task Force, about how children get infected by the worms,

New Delhi: India marks National Deworming Day (NDD) twice a year, on February 10 and in the month of August. The day has been commemorated by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare since 2015, to deworm all children between the ages of 1-19 years, through the platform of schools, health centres and Anganwadi Centers. It aims to improve the overall health and nutritional status of children and their access to education and quality of life.

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More than 1.5 billion people or 24 per cent of the world’s population are infected by intestinal worms, also known as Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In India, STH is a significant public health concern, with 241 million children between the ages of 1 and 14 predicted to be at risk of being infected.

On the occasion, the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India team spoke to Dr Sivaranjani Santosh, Paediatrician at Magna Centres in Hyderabad and Dr. Sabina Kapasi, Advisor, Public Health and Healthcare Services Strategist, United Nations Covid Task Force, about how children get infected by the worms, how to identify the symptoms and what’s the severity of worm infestation, among others.

Talking about the intestinal worms, Dr Sabina said,

Intestinal worms, the silent invaders residing within us, are more common than you might think. These parasites, known as Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH), quietly make their homes in the human intestines, leeching away vital nutrients and causing a myriad of health issues.

Dr Sivaranjani said that Soil-Transmitted Helminths encompass various species of intestinal worms, including roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides), whipworms (Trichuris trichiura), pinworms, hookworms (Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale).

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Myths Vs Facts

Dr Sivaranjani said that there are several myths about how a child gets worm infestation. Some of the commons myths are:

  • Myth 1: Children get worms by eating sugar
  • Myth 2: Eating spicy food can prevent worm infestation
  • Myth 3: Only non-vegetarian children get worm infestation

The Paediatrician busted the myths and highlighted the some of causes of worm infestation among children:

  1. By eating undercooked food and unwashed vegetables grown in water and soil contaminated by human or animal faeces
  2. By walking barefeet in contaminated water or soil
  3. When children itch their anal areas and directly put their fingers in their mouth, without handwashing. The eggs of the worms are stuck under the nails and enter children’s intestines.
  4. By touching surfaces contaminated with the larvae and eggs of the worms and not washing hands after that
  5. Not washing hands after using the washroom
  6. By eating undercooked pork or beef
  7. By using undergarments and bed sheets contaminated by these eggs or babies of the worms

Talking about the symptoms and the severity of STH among children, Dr Sivaranjani said that they mostly include itching in the anal area, rashes on the body, cough, continuous wheezing, swelling of feet, fever, which results in poor school performance, poor growth, and poor sleep. She added,

If the worm load is high, children experience severe symptoms like obstruction to the intestine, blood in the urine, loss of eyesight, kidney related problems, poor nutrition resulting in Anaemia.

Dr Sabina highlighted other complications that children may experience, including diarrhoea, dysentery, loss of appetite, and malabsorption, which prevents the body from absorbing vital nutrients.Why Is Deworming Important For Your Child?

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Dr Sivaranjani Santosh said that a child should be dewormed once in every six months. Talking about its significance, the health expert said that the worms can cause many problems with nutrition, growth, academic performance, sleep and in severe cases, intestinal obstruction and problems with the brain of a child. Hence, deworming can boost a child’s immunity, help control infections and increase nutritional uptake. She further said,

The WHO states that in the areas where the worm infestation is 20 per cent prevalent, we need to have a National Deworming Day at least once a year and India marks the day twice a year, in February and August.

The experts highlighted two key medications, Albendazole (400 mg) and Mebendazole (500 mg), as effective remedies. These medications are also recommended by the WHO. Talking about medications, Dr Sabina said,

These treatments are not only effective but also affordable, and can be administered by non-medical personnel. These medications offer a ray of hope in the battle against these insidious parasites, and make them the best contenders for mass deworming programmes.

Efforts Towards Deworming Children In India

Since 2015, India has been marking the National Deworming Day twice a year, reaching out to children through various health centres, government-aided schools and Anganwadi Centers and providing them with the approved drugs.

Dr Sabina said that the government’s initiative of marking the NDD twice a year, will help reach out to more children and their families. The health expert further added,

This approach not only will prevent the spread of infections but will also promote better health outcomes, increased school attendance, and ultimately, stronger, more resilient populations. It’s an investment in our collective well-being that yields dividends for generations to come.

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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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