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  • Definition

    Ascariasis is an infection with a roundworm parasite.
    This round worm can reach up to over 15 inches (40 centimeters) in length. Their eggs hatch in the stomach and travel to the heart and lungs. This causes a type of pneumonia. They travel to the throat where they are swallowed and enter the stomach again and develop into adult worms. Each worm lays 240,000 eggs per day. These eggs leave the body with bowel movements. The cycle begins again when contaminated food or water is eaten.
    Digestive Tract and Lungs
    Digestion tract and Lungs 3D
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  • Causes

    Ascariasis is caused by swallowing food or water that is contaminated by feces containing eggs.
  • Risk Factors

    Infestations are more common in preschool age or younger children. Other factors that may increase your chance of ascariasis include:
    • Travel to developing countries
    • Living in southern US
    • Eating unsanitary food
    • Drinking unclean water
  • Symptoms

    Most people will have no symptoms. Symptoms of ascariasis may include:
    • Dry cough and fever
    • Wheezing
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Vomiting
    • Poor nutrition, especially in children
    • Passing a worm either by mouth, nose, or rectum
    • Diseases caused by the Ascaris worm include:
    Inflammed appendix
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and your travel and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a gastroenterologist or a specialist in tropical diseases.
    Your bodily fluids and waste may be tested. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests
    • Stool tests
    Images may be taken to look for evidence of the worm. This can be done with:
    • X-ray
    • Ultrasound
  • Treatment

    It is common to have more than one intestinal parasite. You may need to be treated for several. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
    • Medications such as mebendazole, albendazole, ivermectin, and pyrantel pamoate
    • Endoscopy or surgery if you have an intestinal obstruction from a large number of worms
  • Prevention

    To reduce your chance of ascariasis:
    • Avoid foods prepared without proper sanitation, such as unwashed hands.
    • Avoid water and other drinks that may be from contaminated sources.
    • Peel, cook, or wash vegetables if they may have been fertilized with human excrement.
    • Wash hands when leaving the bathroom.

    Center for Disease Control

    World Health Organization


    Health Canada

    Public Health Agency of Canada


    Ascariasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated April 29, 2013. Accessed July 19, 2014.

    Parasites—ascariasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated January 10, 2013. Accessed July 19, 2014.

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