The Tapeworm - Removal and Prevention
Tapeworm removal is never a pleasant process, so it is always best to avoid ingesting tapeworm larvae if at all possible. It’s also important to know what kind of tapeworms are out there, how they infect us, and how to get rid of them.
Common types of tapeworms
Cow tapeworm, or taenia saginata
This species is very large and can grow to be over 25 feet long. This worm’s life cycle usually begins in a cow’s muscle tissue where it remains in larval state until someone eats the infected meat. Then, the worms hatch and attach themselves to the intestine of their new host. They typically adhere to the intestinal walls up high and grow downward. These worms cause severe nutritional deficiencies since they are so large and demand so much food from their hosts. In most industrialized countries, the taenia saginata rarely makes it from cow to human, as the larvae are detected during quality control checks at meat processing plants. However, in undeveloped countries, they are a very serious problem.
Pork tapeworm, or taenia solium
This is a close relative of the cow tapeworm and it can only enter your body if you eat infected pork that hasn’t been cooked well enough to kill the larval worms. While this type of worm is smaller than the cow tapeworm, it is much more dangerous because the eggs will embed anywhere in the human body – even the brain.
Dog tapeworm, or dipylidium caninum
This worm commonly takes up residence in the bodies of domestic dogs and is ten to fifteen centimeters long at full size. This species is made up of many individual segments. It lays its eggs inside the dog’s digestive tract and they are passed out in its feces. That excrement is eaten by fleas, which are usually nibbled at by the dog. This spreads the eggs into the dog’s mouth. In this way, once a dog has been infected he is plunged into a very unpleasant cycle of re-infection. These eggs can be passed on to humans via the mouth (a good reason not to let dogs lick your face). When an infected dog scrapes his behind on the floor, he could be crushing tapeworm eggs and spreading them on the floor. This is why children are at high risk for infection by this type of parasite.
There are several other types of tapeworms, including those that reside in undercooked fish and others still that prefer to carry out their life cycle being passed from insect to rodent and back again.
Symptoms of Tapeworm Infestation
If you have a tapeworm, you’ll need to identify which type it is so that you can take the best course of action to remove it. If you are infected, you’ll probably experience some of the following symptoms.
- Weight loss & increased appetite
Getting Rid of Tapeworms
Tapeworm removal is done one of two ways: by ingesting poison to kill them internally, or by extracting them surgically. The method used depends on the type of worm, what stage of its life cycle it is currently in, and where it has attached itself to your body.
One dose of medications such as albendazole, praziquantel, and niclosamide will usually kill most tapeworms and their eggs. If that doesn’t work or if your doctor decides that drugs aren’t the best course of action in your case, you may need to undergo tapeworm removal surgery. If you have a larval cyst, doctors might remove it in much the same way they would remove a tumor. Adult tapeworms that have attached to the intestines are sometimes removed through an unusual procedure that involves pulling the tapeworm out of the body through a small incision made on the abdomen. There are videos available online so you can see exactly what this method entails, but be warned that they are graphic and many people find them disturbing.
Preventing Tapeworm Infection
Of course, it’s best to avoid getting a tapeworm altogether. If you’ve already been infected, it is imperative that you take steps to avoid spreading the worms to the people you come into contact with.
Personal hygiene is of utmost importance and you must take great care to keep your hands very clean. Since tapeworm eggs and larvae will pass during bowel movements, you must thoroughly clean your bathroom and hands with antibacterial agents and hot water as soon as you finish using the restroom.
Always properly cook and freeze fish beef and pork. Any meat can contain larval cysts and should be either frozen or cooked to a temp over 135 degrees Fahrenheit before ingesting.
Treat infected pets promptly so they don’t spread the worms to you and your family.