Roundworm

Roundworms can infest the human gut, where they live, feed and reproduce. See your GP if you notice a roundworm in your faeces (poo) or you have unexplained asthma-like symptoms shortly after visiting a tropical or sub-tropical country.

Symptoms of roundworm infection

Roundworm is a rare condition in Northern Ireland. You should suspect it if you've been abroad within the last two years to a region where roundworm is common, such as Africa or Asia, and if you:

  • experience unexplained asthma-like symptoms (wheeze or shortness of breath)
  • have persistent symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhoea
  • pass a worm in your faeces -the worms have a distinct appearance

Round worms on a glass dish
Roundworms can live in your gut and be up to 35cm long

Less commonly, symptoms can include a high temperature and dry cough 4-16 days after swallowing the eggs.

When to see your GP

A roundworm infection often doesn't usually cause any noticeable symptoms. But symptoms are more likely with large numbers of roundworm. People usually see their GP because they've seen a worm in their stools (faeces).

You should see your GP if you notice a roundworm in your faeces or you have unexplained symptoms (as above) after visiting a tropical or sub-tropical country.

A roundworm infection can be diagnosed by examining a small sample of faeces under a microscope. Infection is confirmed by the presence of eggs or a worm in the sample.

Treating a roundworm infection

Roundworm infections can usually be successfully treated with medication. Your GP will discuss treatment options with you.

About roundworm

A roundworm infection is also sometimes known as ascariasis or ascaris. It is usually easy to treat.

Roundworms are parasites. They use the human body to stay alive, feed and reproduce.

If a lot of eggs have been swallowed, or if the worms move from the small intestine to other parts of the body, they can cause serious complications, such as a bowel obstruction. In Northern Ireland, these types of complications are rare.

How a roundworm infection occurs

Roundworms are spread when eggs are present in human faeces (poo) and are picked up from contaminated soil, food or water. (See below for how to avoid infection when travelling).

A roundworm infection can occur if you swallow the microscopic ascaris eggs in contaminated food or water. It's also possible for eggs to be transferred from your hands to your mouth after touching contaminated soil. 

After the eggs mature into adult worms, the worms produce more eggs. The eggs are released from the body through the bowel, and can then infect other people.

The more roundworms there are inside your body, the worse your symptoms are likely to be.

Preventing a roundworm infection

Regularly washing your hands can help prevent the spread of a roundworm infection.

You should take additional precautions if you're travelling to a part of the world where roundworm is common.

Precautions include only drinking bottled water and avoiding raw fruit and vegetables.

These are the same precautions that help prevent many other infections linked to poor sanitation.

People commonly affected by roundworm

Soil-transmitted worm infections, including roundworm, are among the most common infections worldwide. They affect poor and deprived communities, where there is overcrowding and poor sanitation.

It's estimated that about a quarter (24 per cent) of the world’s population currently has a soil-transmitted worm infection.

Infections commonly occur in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world, including in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, China and east Asia.

Most recorded cases of roundworm in Northern Ireland are contracted abroad, either by travellers or migrants who come from parts of the world where roundworm is present.

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.