I Dewormed Myself Yesterday
Authors warning: Some gross material will be encountered if you read on.
Depending on whose estimates you believe, and the precise definition you choose, between 15–85% of Americans are actively colonized by parasitic worms. The vast majority of these are harmless and, in contrast to what many hucksters and alternative medicine types might say, have no long term negative health consequences. Many in fact are believed to contribute in a positive way to a persons overall health and longevity. Much like our microbial brothers and sisters the parasitic worms have mostly gotten a bad rap. That said there are certainly some that are not healthy (e.g. Toxocara aka roundworm) and can cause diseases like blindness and a host of other not so pleasant outcomes. I have written several fictional accounts about my favorite parasite, the feline poop transmitted, Toxoplasma gondii. Although it’s ability to control your mind and cause mental illness has not been proven, it’s ability to cause chronic health problems in an unlucky few, has. T. gondii is not considered a “worm” by most standard definitions of the term and I only mentioned it here because it is most definitely a parasite and it is most definitely awesome.
Most Americans understanding and exposure to parasitic worms probably comes from that “health” class they had to take in 7th grade. Many readers are probably familiar with that class as the one where they first saw a penile blister up close and personal. For me at least it also featured a lengthy discourse on the travails of the poor Africans/Indians who were infested with parasitic worms of every variety. The highlight was a discussion (with pictures) of some poor “savage” who had been given a dose of (American made) anti parasitic drugs and proceeded to disgorge his worm load via the oral and nasal route. Yuck.
What does all this have to do with me you are probably not asking yourself at the moment. For reasons that are not pertinent to this post recently I had very good reason to suspect I had been exposed to a rather high concentration of roundworms. Fortunately my good friend Kat keeps a stash of pyrantel pamoate ( C34H30N2O6–4-[(3-Carboxy-2-hydroxynaphthalen-1-yl)methyl]-3-hydroxynaphthalene-2-carboxylic acid; 1-methyl-2-[(E)-2-thiophen-2-ylethenyl]-5,6-dihydro-4H-pyrimidine) on hand at all times for just such occasions I guess. The drug acts as a depolarizing neuromuscular blocking agent, which causes a sudden contraction, followed by paralysis, of the helminths, specifically their “mouths” by which they attach to the intestinal walls. This has the result of causing the worm to “lose its grip” on and be passed out of the system by natural process. Natural processes most often being in normal stool or with diarrhea, straining, and occasional vomiting. This drug is commonly given to cats and dogs for hookworm or roundworm control and is effective against a number of other common parasitic worms as well. It certain parts of the world (usually tropical or sub-tropical climates) it is given to children (e.g. northern Australia) as the expectation is that they will have a high likelihood of exposure, and some studies have shown significant impacts on cognitive development in children with parasitic worms. In the US the use is much less common in people (basically restricted to pinworm treatment in children) but very common in our domesticated pets where treatment every six months is the norm, at least for dogs.
Due to my theoretical exposure and out of an abundance of caution I decided to dose myself with pyrantel. There are typically no side but those that have been known to occur are very mild and can include nausea, headache, dizziness, trouble sleeping, and rash. With this foreknowledge I took my medicine with zero trepidation and promptly forgot about it, until about 2 hours later. That is when the first wave of nausea hit, followed by significant and painful stomach cramping, and then vomiting. I have to admit I was not brave enough to inspect the vomit and promptly flushed it, but it was not a pretty picture in my mind. Currently as I sit writing this on day 2 the nausea has mostly passed though my stomach still cramps. I have yet to take a dump but I guarantee when I do I will flush immediately with out even turning around. I do not need to see that. Yuck.
Authors note: 02/13/18 — I did eventually drop a rather large dookie, and no I did not look, though the temptation was great, as was the disgust. Feeling fine now and 100% worm free!