Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis

Ascariasis is an earthworm-shaped intestinal parasite that can easily be seen without a microscope. The parasite is never transmitted from individual to individual, but the eggs are spread through contaminated water, food, or soil-contaminated hands (such as eating poorly washed raw vegetables grown in contaminated soil). If left untreated, the worms can migrate to other parts of the body such as the lungs. With treatment, ascariasis is usually curable in 1 week. Anybody can be affected, but it is more common in children.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Signs and symptoms include restlessness at night, irritability, fatigue, poor appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, and sometimes diarrhea and fever. Occasionally worms may be seen in the bowel movement or in the child’s bed.

Your doctor will prescribe medication to kill the worms. These medications cannot be used if you are pregnant. They may also aggravate a seizure disorder. Side effects of these medications include stomach upset, dizziness, headache, and itching. They may also color the bowel movements red. Wash hands carefully after using the toilet and always before eating. Shower daily with careful attention to cleaning the anal area twice a day. Linens, nightclothes, towels, and washcloths used by someone with roundworms should be boiled or soaked in a solution of 1 cup ammonia to 5 gallons of water. After treatment, bathroom floors and fixtures, including toilet seats, should be scrubbed thoroughly. Toys should be sterilized or scrubbed with the ammonia solution. Other family members should be checked for infection.

The DOs
• Take medication as directed by your doctor. Tell him if you think you might be pregnant or if you have a seizure disorder.
• Wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after using the toilet.
• Keep nails clean and short.
• Shower instead of taking tub baths.
• Boil soiled linens if possible, or soak them in an ammonia solution before washing.
• Sterilize toys or scrub with the ammonia solution, then rinse with clear water.
• Have pets treated for worms, and advise children to avoid strange animals.
• Clean bathroom fixtures thoroughly after treatment.
• Have all family members checked for infection.
• Drink only bottled water when traveling in underdeveloped countries.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t eat unwashed vegetables.
• Don’t drink water when traveling in economically underdeveloped countries.
• Don’t share towels or washcloths.

When to Call Your Doctor
• A high fever develops.
• You have severe abdominal pain.
• Chest pain or shortness of breath occurs.
• After treatment is completed, you continue to have symptoms.