Fashion is so passe… Why not be truly original this summer and pick up a parasitic infection? Make your friends jealous with the hottest new tapeworm infection! There’s nothing to get your bod beach ready like a case of Trichinella!
Yeah, look. There is no real way of making a parasitic infection sound sexy is there? It may well be one of those things that we just need to cop on the chin and move on. As always, I’m here to give you as much information as possible so that we can put this behind us and move on.
What on earth is a parasite?
A parasite is an organism that lives off other organisms. This could be a kind of worm, malaria, or your youngest child who just won’t move out of him (if you’re reading this David, yes, I would like you to move out). Some parasites can have a profoundly negative impact on your bodies, whilst some are so innocuous the host can often live for years without realising they even have one.
Here are some of the big dogs that you might come across in Australia
Those of you who are old enough might remember when Sydney’s water supply was temporarily undrinkable in the late 90s. Giardia was one of the culprits. G. lamblia is found in faeces, either animal or human, though they can also be traced in water, food and soil. Annoyingly, they can enclose themselves in hard cysts so they can survive outside of a body for months at a time. When they eventually work their way back inside, the cyst melts and (like a terrible AirBnB guest) they get straight back to messing with their host. The giardia parasite can cause a number of fun things to start happening in your body:
- Chronic diarrhoea which leads to dehydration. THe body lacks the water needed to perform basic functions, and this can become life threatening without medical intervention.
- This can lead to malnutrition, which is particularly problematic for children, as it can stunt their physical and mental development.
- Finally, it can cause you to develop a lactose intolerance. Even after you have freed yourself of the parasite, you might be left with an inability to break down milk sugar.
This is a parasitic roundworm that can cause a disease known as trichinosis. Generally, you would pick this up from eating raw or undercooked meat which has been contaminated by the parasite. Several weeks later, the larvae hatch in your lower intestine as fully grown worms. It’s not a pretty thought. These worms then spawn more larvae which travel through your bloodstream to different parts of the body. You might suspect you have been infected by the roundworm if you have:
- Abdominal pain
When the worms begin to invade your muscle tissue, you will begin to experience a fever, muscular pain, facial swelling, irritated skin, conjunctivitis, and a sensitivity to light. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to treat. Consider a treatment like Combantrin to help rid yourself of these little blighters.
Most people don’t know that malaria is actually a disease caused by a parasite. It is commonly communicated through mosquitos who are carrying the blood of an infected person. The World Health Organisation estimates that 241 million people around the world have contracted this parasite, and of that, 627,000 people lost their lives. Tragically, many of these are children in Africa, where there is simply not the same access to healthcare as there is in other parts of the world. You can still get it elsewhere and it is worth knowing some of the symptoms.
- Flu symptoms
- Muscle aches
It can also cause the discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice) because you are losing red blood cells so rapidly. If you don’t seek medical intervention, it can lead to kidney failure, confusion, seizures, comas and eventually death. If you suspect you have been infected with malaria, you should seek medical help ASAP.
One of the more common varieties of parasitic worms are the humble threadworm. These are sometimes called pinworms because the females have a long pin-like tail. These little buggers grow between 5mm and 13mm, and bury their heads into the intestinal wall and anus. Children are most susceptible to threadworms, as they tend to touch anything, regardless of how gross it might be. They might complain of feeling a bit sick, without any real specificity. Pick up some combantrin and you’ll be right as rain in a few days
Next cab off the rank is the whipworm, named for their whip-like shape. They often show up in warmer, more temperate areas. They can go as far as causing rectal prolapse; when the rectum droops out of the anus. For children, these worms can even cause an impairment in cognitive development. Same deal as before: Combantrin will sort you out here.
Finally, we have the hookworm. These live in the small intestine, and can enter through your skin. The most serious side effect of hookworm is the loss of blood which can lead to anaemia. The good news is, they are very treatable. Bit of a broken record, but hooray for Combantrin!
The reality is that in Australia we are blessed that these parasitic infections rarely become lethal. We have easy access to home remedies, and on the rare occasion that we need further intervention, our hospitals are well equipped. You have all the tools you need firmly in your own hands. So whether your parasite is a worm draining the nutrients from your body, or just a youngest child, who refuses to move out, you need to take decisive action.
May you have better luck with yours than I have had with mine. I will get rid of you one day, David…