A mere thought about tapeworms would make anyone cringe. Fortunately, tapeworm infections are uncommon in the United States and the rest of developed world. But still, it's important to know the symptoms of tapeworm infection, how people become infected, and how to prevent getting tapeworms, as the infection may be life-threatening in some cases.
Below, we list symptoms of tapeworm infection, ways people may get tapeworms, and ways to protect yourself from these nasty parasites.
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How do people become infected with tapeworms?
The most common way of becoming infected with tapeworms is eating contaminated foods. In most cases, contaminated meat or fish is the cause of this health problem. It's also possible to get tapeworms in the following situations:
- drinking contaminated water;
- eating fruits or vegetables that have been washed with contaminated water or haven't been washed at all;
- contact with contaminated soil.
What are the symptoms of tapeworm infection?
Tapeworms may not cause any significant symptoms, especially if the infection is limited to the gut. But if symptoms are present, they may include the following:
- increased, decreased, or absent appetite;
- abdominal pain;
- weight loss;
- pieces of tapeworms in a stool.
If the infection is invasive (meaning tapeworm larvae traveled from the intestines into other organs and tissues), symptoms may include the following:
- allergic reactions to the larvae;
- cysts in the affected organ (or organs).
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Possible complications that tapeworms may cause include the following:
- a blockage in the intestines, bile ducts, or pancreatic ducts;
- damage to the central nervous system, which may manifest in headaches, seizures, visual disturbances, cognitive impairment, and even death;
- damage and disrupted function of other organs, including liver, lungs, and heart.
How can I prevent tapeworm infection?
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Tapeworm infections usually result from a lack of proper food hygiene. So, to lower your risk of tapeworm infection, do this:
- wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water every time before eating and cooking, and after using the toilet;
- don't eat potentially contaminated foods or any foods that cause suspicion;
- if you are in an area with poor sanitation, use only the bottled water you have brought with you, or boil other available water for at least a few minutes before drinking it, or washing fruits or vegetables with it.
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.