Statistical studies have confirmed that intestinal
parasitic infections are highly endemic among children of school-going age
especially in places where resources are limited. The use of preventive
measures is necessary to reduce the impact of the infections and infestations
especially in these regions.
include protozoan infections like amebiasis and
giardiasis, and helminthic or worm infestations. These have been correlated
with various conditions such as growth deficits, malnutrition and poor
performance in school. Human infections with various parasites may lead to
reduced intake of food and nutrients, intestinal blood loss and red blood cell
destruction by the spleen, thereby resulting in anemia. They may also result in
abdominal pain, diarrhea, intestinal obstruction, intestinal ulcers and many
other health problems
Strategy of Intestinal Parasitic Infections
Parasitic infections are treated with medications.
However, drug therapy
only offers temporary elimination of
the infection and there are chances of reinfection especially in those areas
where intestinal parasites are more prevalent.
Complementary approaches are necessary to remove
complete dependence on drug therapy and to bring about a more sustained effect
over a long term. The primary route through which parasitic infection spreads
is the fecal-oral route. Thus, the long-term preventive interventional strategy
should be aimed at reducing reinfection and transmission. This can be achieved
by providing safe and adequate supply of drinking water, improvement of
environmental sanitation, and inculcating good hygiene and sanitation practices
such as hand washing with soap, and washing and cooking vegetables thoroughly.
One of the primary vectors carrying the intestinal
parasites are human hands. Hence, it is of utmost importance to wash hands with
soap to prevent the spread of parasitic infections. Dirty and untrimmed nails
are also associated with an increase in susceptibility towards acquiring
parasitic infections. It is important to clip nails regularly and keep the skin
below the nails clean.
A recent study conducted in Ethiopia assessed the
impact of handwashing and nail clipping in preventing parasitic reinfection and
its effect on anemia in children
between the ages
of 6 and 15 years. The children were provided soap, taught the correct method of
handwashing and instructed to wash their hands before preparing and eating
meals, after defecation, after playing on the ground, after cleaning an infant
who had defecated, before feeding infants, or at any other time when their
hands got unclean. Nail clipping was done for the children every week by the
The children were followed up for 6 months, at the end
of which they had to undergo a stool test for parasitic infection and a blood
test to detect anemia.
The researchers found that the interventions of hand
washing with soap and regular nail clipping every week led to a significant
reduction in the rate of reinfection with intestinal parasites.
Handwashing with soap also reduced anemia prevalence
by improving hemoglobin levels in children. Anemia was also reduced by weekly
nail clipping, but not to a significant extent. Another study has demonstrated
that hand washing along with dietary modification improves the hemoglobin
levels significantly. Thus, if dietary modifications with iron-rich food
was also provided to the children, there is a possibility that the result would
be more significant.
Good handwashing has been claimed to be the first line
of defence against the transmission of parasitic and other infections. Children
should be properly educated about the correct technique of hand washing. It is
preferable to wash hands with lukewarm water. Soap should be used and lathered
for about 20 seconds especially between the fingers, below the nails and the
wrists and then washed off with water. Once clean, the hands should be well dried
with a clean towel.
Regular handwashing with soap and weekly nail
clipping in children can also reduce the spread of infection in the community.
This will have a huge impact on the overall health of the children in the
community. Therefore, handwashing with soap and nail clipping should be
promoted as a public health measure and instruction and education regarding the
correct way of hand washing should be given.