Deworming in children
Soil-transmitted helminth infections are among the most common infections in humans, caused by a group of parasites commonly referred to as worms, including roundworms, whipworms and hookworms. Those living in poverty are most vulnerable to infection which can impair nutritional status by causing:
- internal bleeding which can lead to loss of iron and anaemia;
- intestinal inflammation and obstruction;
- diarrhoea; and
- impairment of nutrient intake, digestion and absorption.
Evidence shows that preventive chemotherapy, or the periodic large-scale administration of anthelminthic medicines to populations at risk, can dramatically reduce the burden of worms caused by soil-transmitted helminth infections.
Preventive chemotherapy is an important part of a comprehensive package to eliminate morbidity due to soil-transmitted helminths in at-risk populations. However, long-term solutions to soil-transmitted helminth infections will need to address many factors, including improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene.
Preventive chemotherapy (deworming), using annual or biannuala single-dose albendazole (400 mg) or mebendazole (500 mg)b is recommended as a public health intervention for all young children 12-23 months of age, preschool children 1–4 years of age, and school-age children 5-12 years of age (in some settings up to 14 years of age) living in areas where the baseline prevalence of any soil-transmitted infection is 20% or more among children, in order to reduce the worm burden of soil-transmitted helminth infection.
a Biannual administration is recommended where the baseline prevalence is more than 50%.
b A half-dose of albendazole (i.e. 200 mg) is recommended for children younger than 24 months of age.
Additional information for this recommendation can be found in the guidance summary and in the guideline, under 'WHO documents' below.
This is one of several WHO recommendations on deworming. The full set of recommendations can be found in 'Full set of recommendations'.
Preventive chemotherapy to control soil-transmitted helminth infections in at-risk population groups
Other guidance documents
Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
Deworming and adjuvant interventions for improving the developmental health and well-being of children in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Deworming drugs for soil-transmitted intestinal worms in children: effects on nutritional indicators, haemoglobin and school performance
- Summary of this review
- Podcast (Cochrane)
Other related systematic reviews
Mass deworming to improve developmental health and wellbeing of children in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and network meta-analysis
Differential effect of mass deworming and targeted deworming for soil-transmitted helminth control in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Impact of hookworm infection and deworming on anaemia in non-pregnant populations: a systematic review.
A review and meta-analysis of the impact of intestinal worms on child growth and nutrition.