There are three main medicines used to treat roundworm infections. They are:
These are described below.
Mebendazole is recommended for treating roundworm infections in adults and children over one year of age.
Mebendazole works by stopping the roundworms from being able to make use of glucose (sugar). Without glucose, the cells of the roundworms lose their energy supply and quickly die.
A three-day course of mebendazole is usually recommended. This involves taking a tablet of mebendazole twice a day.
The most common side effect of mebendazole is stomach pain. Less common side effects include:
- skin rash
- flatulence (excessive wind)
Piperazine is recommended for babies aged 3-11 months. It is available as a powder that you dissolve in water. Most children only require a single dose.
Side effects of piperazine can include:
- abdominal (tummy) pain
- colic (abdominal pain caused by trapped wind)
These side effects should quickly pass once the medicine works its way out of the body.
If your child is younger than three months of age, delaying treatment until they reach three months may be recommended.
Albendazole is commonly used in tropical countries, but is currently unlicensed for use in the UK.
This means that the manufacturer of the medicine has not applied for a license for albendazole to be used to treat roundworm in the UK. However, the medicine has been extensively studied in countries where roundworm is common and has been shown to be safe and effective.
While there is no hard evidence that any of the medications above can cause birth defects, they are not usually recommended during pregnancy. Roundworms may cause troublesome symptoms, but they do not usually pose a threat to your unborn child.
However, there may be some circumstances where the benefits of treatment outweigh the potential risk, for example if you develop a blocked intestine or experience significant internal bleeding.
In such circumstances, mebendazole is thought to be the safest medication to use during pregnancy, although ideally treatment should be delayed until the second trimester (weeks 13 to 28 of pregnancy) or the third trimester (week 29 until birth). Using mebendazole during the first three months of pregnancy is thought to carry the highest risk of birth defects (although the risk is still thought to be low).