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Yes! worm infections are incredibly contagious, and common in humans – especially children. They can be transmitted through either direct contact or indirect contact.
Through direct contact, worms like threadworms are easily spread by swallowing their tiny eggs (if a child puts dirty fingers in their mouth, for example). An example of indirect contact may be when the child comes into contact with an infected surface or person. The worms often lodge under fingernails and can remain viable on items such as handles for up to 3 days.
Worms are incredibly easily spread among youngsters when they’re engaging in team sports, playing outdoors or even touching school equipment that another infected youngster might have previously used. But as easy as worm infections are to contract, they’re also easy to treat effectively with Pyrantel embonate (Combantrin™). Pyrantel embonate (Combantrin™) treats threadworms, roundworms and hookworms and is gentle on kids as it effectively paralyzes the worms inside the body, allowing them to be passed out of the body with a bowel movement.
The most common symptoms of worm infections are an itching bottom, general irritability, lack of appetite and trouble sleeping. Itchy bottom is the most obvious symptom, so you may notice this more prominently than other symptoms. However, worm infections can also be asymptomatic, meaning no visible symptoms are present.
There are a few definitive signs that your child has a worm infection. For threadworms, the first of which is visible worms on the outside of bowel motions. To the naked eye, these will look like fine pieces of cotton thread (hence the name ‘threadworms’) and can be up to 1.5cm long. Read more about the different worm types for a more detailed description, so you know what to look for. You might also spot worms or eggs around the anus, especially at night. This is when the worms emerge to lay their eggs. Wait around an hour after the child has gone to bed, then, using a torch, carefully examine the area. If present, the worms and eggs should be visible to the naked eye. Alternatively, you might try the ‘sticky tape test’. Press a piece of tape against the anus, gently remove, then hold it up to the light – any threadworm eggs that are present will appear as tiny white specks on the tape.
See our symptoms page for more information, or browse the different types of worms to see whether your child’s own symptoms line up.
In many cases, infections don't actually cause many outwardly noticeable symptoms. But when symptoms do occur, they appear in two distinct stages:
Early-phase symptoms: newly-hatched larvae can make their way from the small intestine (where they usually live) into the lungs, which can cause a number of symptoms, including fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and wheezing. Experts are yet to establish why some people infected with roundworms experience these symptoms, while others don't. Early-phase symptoms can become apparent 4-16 days after the eggs or larvae were ingested.
Late-phase symptoms: when the worms living in the intestine have reached maturity, they can cause blockages in the digestive system, which can lead to mild abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and eventually, passing the worm in your feces. This doesn't tend to happen until around six weeks after the original infection occurred.
Treat the infection as early as possible with Pyrantel embonate (Combantrin™) and don’t forget to treat yourself and the whole family. Treating just one member of the family for their worm infection and neglecting to treat the others may allow for re-infestation as worms are highly contagious. If you spot the signs and symptoms of a worm infection in one family member, be sure to act fast and treat everyone living in the house – including Mom and Dad!
You should also follow up this initial treatment with another dose about two to four weeks later if symptoms persist; to be sure the entire infection is gone. The faster a worm infection can be identified and treated, the faster kids can get back to having fun and being themselves!
Yes, they can! Though children are more likely to contract worm infections, due in large part to their close social interaction and physical play and generally less entrenched patterns of personal hygiene (hand washing etc.). Adults can also pick up the infections if one of their children is infected. Sometimes worm infections aren’t picked up in other family members because not everyone will exhibit symptoms (especially adults) – so it’s crucial to be on the safe side and treat everyone at the same time.
Worms are human host specific - that is, they will not survive in the intestine of household pets, so dogs and cats cannot be part of the worm lifecycle, and cannot be contracted from pets. However, it is still possible to contract worm like threadworm from eggs stuck to the fur of cats and dogs. While domestic pets do not play a large role in the transfer of threadworm to humans, other types of worms can be caught from your pets. Animals can have their own form of "animal specific" roundworm, hookworm and whipworm. These may be passed on through the pet's poo when a child touches or eats a pet's poo; puts something in their mouth after the pet has had it in their mouth; or has their face licked by their pet.
It is important to consult your vet to help protect your pet against worms. If you suspect your child has another infection, please see your doctor for treatment.
Avoiding animal-sourced worm infestations
Be sure to keep any sandboxes or play areas covered in order to prevent dogs and cats from defecating in them – pet feces can be a prime carrier of worm infections. Make sure you collect and dispose of all fecal material your dog or cat leaves behind, too.
Fight the source of tapeworms by proactively controlling fleas, and avoiding uncooked meat or offal when it comes to making up your pet’s meals. Your pets should also be wormed regularly with a recognized animal worming treatment.
Deworming products work only on the adult worms present in the intestine at the time the medicine is taken. This is why it is so important to give your home a thorough clean after treatment, to kill any remaining eggs and help prevent reinfestation. Pyrantel embonate (Combantrin™) should be used as a treatment rather than a preventative option. There are ways in which you can reduce the risk of or prevent re-infestation (such as regular hand-washing, clean bed linens, steering clear of animal feces, etc) but the medication should only be used for the treatment of an existing infection. It pays to be prepared – always have some. Pyrantel embonate (Combantrin™) at hand in the cupboard so you can treat at the first signs of symptoms.
Pyrantel embonate (Combantrin™) is effective against threadworm, hookworm and roundworm only.
If you suspect you have tapeworms or other types of worms, you should see your doctor. Diagnosing a tapeworm infection may require a stool sample to identify the type of worm. This is because there are different types of worms and tapeworms that can infect people.