Playgrounds, sandboxes, or sand on the beach: they are all great places for children to play. As we know, kids “like to be dirty” or to build sand castles. Sadly, the little builders are stalked by a dangerous enemy that can ruin their health permanently. In unprotected playgrounds, freely roaming dogs and cats may leave “souvenirs” in the sand, when their owners let them loose and do not clean their excrement. Children get their hands dirty, put them in their mouth, and just like that, become hosts to some of the extremely dangerous parasitic diseases, such as toxoplasmosis and toxocariasis.
Cute kitties and puppies
Does your child want a dog or a cat, preferably a small and fluffy one? Or do you yourself want such a pet at home? There is nothing wrong with it, providing you deworm the pet at the vet and regularly care for its health.
In pups and kittens toxocariasis takes on its most expansive forms. These sweet bundles of fluff become infected with the Toxocara parasites (canine or feline roundworms) already in the womb or while suckling milk. Larvae hatch from the swallowed eggs in Fluffy’s duodenum, then, after entering the bloodstream of intestinal mucosa, they flow with blood through liver and heart to lungs or the bronchial tree. They cause the pet to cough or sneeze. From the throat, they move with swallowed mucus to the small intestine, where they mature. Adult roundworms produce eggs, which are then excreted with pup’s or kitten’s feces. It is worth bearing in mind that the eggs and larva are sticky, and they easily attach to animal fur.
This is why even petting the fur of and infected animal and not washing the hands afterwards may have dangerous consequences.
Eye, heart, lungs, and brain
The roundworm larvae may encyst in different organs of the human body, causing inflammation in nearby tissue. They tend to prefer the fundus of the human eye, heart, lungs, or brainstem. They contribute to eyesight deterioration, cross-eyes, meningitis, consciousness disorders, or personality changes (e.g. apathy or aggression). They may cause epileptic symptoms, convulsions, as well as anemia, stomachaches, headaches, enlargement of liver or spleen, joint inflammation, and development disorders in children.
Not undertaking treatment is highly dangerous, because the larva encysted in infected tissue cause irreparable damage. One needs to remember that the larvae may remain alive in the human body up to several years.
Treatment of toxocariasis is a long process, and should be undertaken in specialized clinics. It may take anywhere from several weeks to several months. The antiparasitic medicines are administered in a series of stages. The body needs to eliminate the inflammation around the parasite larva and regenerate tissues of the organs attacked. Dead larvae are absorbed by the body.
According to the guidelines of the Polish State Sanitary Inspection:
1. Deworm dogs and cats, at least 4 times a year.
2. Children should not touch unknown animals.
3. Secure sandboxes (with covers) and playgrounds (with fences) from animals.
4. Clean up animal excrement.
5. Sand in sandboxes needs to be changed occasionally.
6. Always wash hands before eating, after playing on a playground or in a sandbox, working in the garden, and most of all, after contact with animals.
7. It is better to use rubber gloves while doing any kind of work involving contact with soil.
8. Trim children’s nails regularly.
9. Wash produce in running water before consumption.
10. Do not give food to children in playgrounds or sandboxes.