Laughing? Or Not?


My son has just informed me that he ate a WORM at preschool today!?  (Ewwww, yuck, yuck, yuck!…spit…gag) 

When I asked him what the worm looked like, he said that it was yellow with a red head.  So…we googled pictures of worms.  At first I feared that it was a grub worm (gross….my stomach is already hurting), but after seeing several pictures of them, he is certain that it  wasn’t that.  He finally settled on the everyday earthworm pictures, which at first made me feel better about it.   — Protein, right?!

Then….I searched the words “eating worms” and came up with this medical article:

Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms

One month after eating an earthworm on a dare, a 16-year old girl developed a fever and nausea that lasted about 2 or 3 days, along with some mild swelling around her eyes. These symptoms went away, but over the next two weeks she also had a worsening cough and lost 5 pounds. The diagnosis? She had developed lung abscesses from parasites that were moving through her lungs. Her story is told in the February 2006 Pediatrics. Her story is unusual because she is a teen. But the worms she was infected with are common in the U.S., usually infecting toddlers and preschool-age kids. These worms, called Toxocara species, are common roundworms of dogs and cats (especially puppies and kittens). In developed countries, infections with these worms in kids are second only to pinworms. What’s the usual story?

In the typical scenario, a young child (age 1 to 4) is happily playing in a sandbox or a playground or soil that contains tiny Toxocara eggs. These eggs may be found wherever infected dogs or cats defecate (common throughout the contiguous U.S., especially in the southeast). Then the child puts dirty fingers in the mouth, or eats some sand or dirt. Once swallowed, the eggs hatch and the larvae begin to migrate through the body, where they can invade any organ. This sounds scary and gross, but…

The good news is that most kids who are infected with Toxocara species will get better on their own, without any treatment, and without ever having any symptoms or awareness of the infection. The higher the number of eggs ingested, the higher the chance of symptoms.  Fever and increased white blood cells (especially white blood cells called eosinophils) are the most common signs if any signs are present. Migration to the liver may cause liver enlargement. In some kids, though, the worms will migrate through the lungs, leading to cough or wheeze. Some kids diagnosed with bronchitis, pneumonia, or asthma actually have Toxocara infections. Usually, simple anti-parasite medicines will take care of the problem. Far less common, but far more serious, is migration to the heart, brain, or eyes.

How can Toxocara infections be prevented? Proper pick-up and disposal of pet poop at parks and playgrounds helps in public areas. Treating puppies and kittens with recommended worm medicines, especially during the first 8 weeks, helps prevent infections from your own pets. It makes sense to cover sandboxes where your child will play when they are not in use. Keep fingernails from getting too long, and clean the hands after playing in sand or dirt and before they go in the mouth. And, of course, try to avoid eating earthworms – even on a double dog dare.

Earthworms are wonderful friends to have in our soil. They aerate, detoxify, and enrich the soil as they move through it, swallowing the soil, and leaving behind marvelous, rich soil castings. But in the meantime, Toxocara larvae can be found throughout the length of the earthworms if they have been eating infected soil. Eating earthworms can make dogs, cats, or people sick.

So, contrary to the lines of the old song, even if nobody loves you, everybody hates you – don’t go eat some worms.

Alan Greene MD FAAP

Eggs?  Larvae?  In my son’s body?!!!  GREAT…..JUST GREAT.  Now what?  Do I wait for his organs to shut down, or should I rush him to the hospital? 

I think I will call the pediatrician right now.

In the mean time, he’s telling me that it is still tickling his throat.  Ugh!….???…yuck, yuck…ewwww…my stomach hurts…



Filed under Children, Family, God, Gross, Health, Humor, Life, Worms

11 responses to “Laughing? Or Not?

  1. Julie

    After tucking him in bed tonight, I go to another room and then begin hearing coughing and gagging sounds. I walk back to his room and ask if he’s ok. His response: “I was just trying to stick my finger down my throat to see if the worm would come back up!!”

    Oh, goodie… we get to worry about Larvae AND Bulimia?!!

  2. satisfiedhousewife

    LOL…woah….that is kinda scary! I have a 10 month old boy, and I’m not looking forward to him getting more “adventurous!” Thanks for stopping by today and leaving a comment. I’m glad I at least homeschool and can watch over him all day, and his big sister can too!

    Take care,

  3. Okay — I admit it… I read this one to the office. We were laughing so hard because all of us have had children that have done goofy stuff…but we do hope that he will be alright.

    In His Grace

  4. Melissa

    Speaking of filthy!!!! Only you, my friend, only you.
    God love ’em!

  5. Niki

    I am soooooooooo not having any more children!

  6. And I am soooo glad mine are raised!
    well, almost raised, past the eating worm stage, at least I hope. You just NEVER know what teenagers might do!

    Blessings to you Julie and be at peace, we’ve survived many such encounters and if eating worms is the worst thing he ever does then praise the Lord.

    I have to admit is did give me a good laugh reading this, reminding me of the joys of raising toddlers and preschoolers!

    Blessings to you!


  7. Mom….just be glad Pam and I never told ya the stuff we ate!!!! 🙂

  8. Ryan

    Children will want to experiment with things like this and it is, in fact, perfectly safe to eat earthworms–as long as you clean them first. To accomplish this, simply soak the earthworms overnight in water and lemon juice and they will purge all of soil, Toxocara larvae, etc. This way, your child can still eat worms, gross out their peers, and get some extra protein, and you don’t have to worry.

  9. I ate an earthworm on a bet the other day. Now after reading this I’m a little scared..but i’m 20 years old. I think I will be okay

  10. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  11. megan fox superman pic

    Sign: dgcph Hello!!! rnged and 9815qaerpgbsat and 6061 : Nice blog!

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