Stomach pain, diarrhoea, feeling sick or vomiting, loss of appetite or increased appetite and weight loss can all be symptoms of a tapeworm infection.
Tapeworm infections are rare in the UK – many don’t cause obvious symptoms and can be easily treated.
But in more severe cases, the worms can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious problems.
A compilcation of a tapeworm infection is the worms can form sacs called cysts, which (if they’ve spread to other organs in your body) can stop the affected organ working properly.
So how can you know for sure you’ve got a tapeworm infection and what’s the best way to treat one?
According to the NHS, tapeworms usually cause few or no symptoms. You may only find out you have one if you spot a bit of worm in your poo.
The health body adds that bits of tapeworm found in poo are often:
- Flat and rectangular
- White or pale yellow
- The size of a grain of rice – but sometimes they’re joined together in a long chain
The pieces of worm may move about.
The NHS says a tapeworm infection can usually be treated with a single tablet of a prescription medicine called niclosamide or praziquantel.
This kills the worm so it cases out in your poo.
It adds: “In the weeks after taking the tablet, make sure you wash your hands regularly – particularly before eating an after using the toilet. This will stop any eggs getting into your mouth and infecting you again.
“A sample of your poo will be checked after a few months to see if the treatment has worked.
“Even if you’ve passed a large piece of worm, this doesn’t always mean it’s gone completely. It could regrow if some of it’s left in your gut.”
To prevent getting a tapeworm infection don’t eat raw or undercooked pork, beef, or freshwater fish and make sure to cook meat and fish thoroughly all the way through.
Also make sure to wash vegetables and fruit before you eat them, wash your hand with soap before handling food and only drink water you know is clean when travelling abroad.
Last year, doctors treating 38-year-old were astonished to discover a tapeworm measuring 6.3 metres when he was admitted to hospital with stomach pain and vomiting.
The man had lost around 5-10kg in weight and also complained of feeling weak.