Parasitic infections can affect people of all ages and cause different health issues. These types of infections are caused by parasites, which are small organisms that need to have a host in order to survive. While parasitic infections are especially dangerous and common in subtropical and tropical regions of the planet, some of them also occur in the United States. In this article, you can learn about various parasitic infections in the country and how they can be treated.
Diagnosing parasitic infections in humans
Depending on the symptoms and the doctor’s decision, you will be able to undergo the following diagnostic procedures at the St.Francis Center:
- A fecal exam to check for the presence of parasites
- A blood test
- A colonoscopy or endoscopy
- MRI, X-ray, or CAT to see any signs of injury to organs
- Tests for bacteria
Correctly determining the infection is the foundation for a successful treatment, so this step shouldn’t be missed.
Common infections and their treatments
The treatment of parasitic infections depends on the diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and an individual’s reaction to different medications. There are situations when an infection can resolve on its own but, in other cases, you will have to undergo treatment, so consulting a medical specialist is a must. When it comes to the most common parasitic infections in the United States, they include the following:
The symptoms of contracting giardiasis may include nausea, weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and gas. Giardia infection may be symptomless and it often doesn’t require any treatment. If this is the case, the problem may go away on its own in several weeks.
In situations when a person experiences severe symptoms or the infection persists, the doctor may prescribe the following medications:
Nitazoxanide is commonly used for children. The reason is that it comes in a liquid form and is easier for them to consume. Tinidazole often works as a single dose while Metronidazole requires a treatment course.
This infection is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei burrowing mite and the main symptom that people experience is intense itching of the skin. This health problem is cured using both topical treatments and medications. Because of the ability to spread, all people who come in contact with the infected person are recommended to use creams.
The treatments that are most often prescribed for scabies are:
- Crotamiton cream or lotion
- Permethrin cream
Both Permethrin and Crotamiton should be applied to the entire body. Permethrin is considered a safe option for children and pregnant women. Ivermectin is helpful in situations when people don’t respond to creams. Treatment with Ivermectin should not be taken lightly, which is why it is vital to read it’s full description. Detailed information on this drug can be found here: rotationmedical.com/drug/stromectol-ivermectin.
Another common parasitic infection is cryptosporidiosis. Its main symptoms include dehydration, stomach pain and cramps, weight loss, fever, and nausea. People who are generally healthy can recover from this health problem without treatment in about two weeks.
At the same time, some treatments may be necessary, especially for those with compromised immune systems to relieve the symptoms. The treatment may include:
- Anti-motility drugs
- Intravenous procedures
Anti-motility drugs are often used to improve fluid absorption while Nitazoxanide may be necessary to get rid of the parasites when the body is not able to do this on its own. In the case that a person suffers from diarrhea, it may be necessary to add intravenous procedures to treat dehydration. You can find more information about Nitazoxanide on this page: medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a603017.html.
Another infection that affects many people is trichomoniasis. It is a sexually transmitted infection that can go unnoticed, as people often don’t have any symptoms. Occasionally, some experience redness, unusual discharge, and irritation in the genitals.
The standard treatment of trichomoniasis requires one dose of antibiotics. The most widely used ones for this problem are Tinidazole and Metronidazole. One thing to note is that people often get reinfected after the treatment, so it’s important to wait until the problem is solved before having sex.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection that can cause many uncomfortable symptoms. It can be contracted in several ways, including eating undercooked meat and getting in contact with infected cat feces. The symptoms of toxoplasmosis include muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and signs that are comparable to flu.
Similar to other infections, people can recover on their own without taking drugs. If this doesn’t happen, the common medications include folinic acid along with sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine.
What increases the chances of getting an infection?
While all people have a certain risk of contracting a parasitic infection, some people are more prone to them because of their environment, state of health, and lifestyle choices. In the United States, people who are most likely to get a parasitic infection:
- Work in childcare
- Work with animals (farms, veterinary clinics)
- Swim in ponds, rivers, or lakes
- Have a weak immune system due to some health problems
- Travel to subtropical and tropical regions
Sometimes avoiding situations when you can get infected is impossible, but it’s important that you get in touch with a doctor the moment that you get any suspicious symptoms.
Recommendations at St. Francis Medical Center to prevent parasitic infections
Lowering the risk of contracting an infection should be a priority. Fortunately, the recommendations are not too difficult to follow and include such:
- Have sex using a condom or with a trusted partner
- Always drink clean water whenever you travel and at home
- Make sure that you wash your hands before food and after any activities that can get you infected (coming in contact with feces, touching uncooked meat, etc.)
- Don’t swim in prohibited areas and avoid swallowing water in any lakes, ponds, and rivers
- Thoroughly cook your food
- If you get pregnant, make sure that someone else cleans a cat’s litter box
It is especially important for pregnant women to avoid situations when they can contract an infection. One of the everyday activities during which people can get toxoplasmosis is cleaning a cat’s litter box because cats are often the carriers of the infection. Women who are pregnant should avoid cleaning their cat’s litter boxes and delegate this task to other members of the household.
Regardless of the symptoms, if you notice any signs that you may be suffering from a parasitic infection, you should visit a medical professional without hesitation. If you go to the doctor as early as possible, it is likely that your treatment will work faster.