Historical Article - Gunn on Worms



The worms which infest the human body, are the long round worm, the maw or thread worm, the tape or long joint worm, and the fluke worm. The long round worm is called by physicians, ascaris lumbricoides, deriving its name from its slipperiness. It has three nipples at its head, and a triangular mouth in its middle. Its length is from four to twelve inches, and its thickness, when at its largest size, about that of a common size goos-quill. The body is furrowed on each side, and the tail somewhat blunt. This worm is quite common in children, and not infrequently it crawls out at the mouth. It is generally of a milky, brownish color, or ash color.

THE MAW OR THREAD WORM,- called by the physicians, ascaris vermicularis - has a blunt head; the tail of the male is blunt, but that of the female quite sharp and winding. It is generally from two to four inches long, quite small - about the size of a small thread - of a white color, and very elastic or springy. This worm is generally found in the strait gut, or fundament - most commonly in children, but not infrequently it is met with grown persons also. They are frequently found in the intestines, or guts in the form of a ball, and so completely covered with a slimy mucus, as to prevent the medicines which are given for worms, from acting - or in other words - causing their discharge by stool. In women, they sometimes escape into the vagina or womb, and thence into the urethra, or canal through which urine passes - and they are also found in the intestines of children.

THE LONG THREAD WORM, - called, medically speaking, tricocephalus dispar - is from an inch and a half to two inches long - of a clear white; the head is sharp; the body of the male is constantly in motion in a curved or winding form. The female is straight, with a blunt head and sharp tail; they contain a brown matter, and generally inhabit the large intestines.

THE LONG TAPE WORM, - called by the medical men, taenia solium - is from one to fifty feet in length. It is gifted with the power to contract, or enlarge its diameter; that is, to draw up or increase its size at pleasure. It rolls itself into a round form, and falls from one side of the stomach to the other on turning, when in the recumbent or lying position. When cramped by the position of the patient, or by hard pressure over the belly, disturbed by food which does not agree with it, by medicine, or some disease proper to it, or tormented by the approach of death, it leaves its hold, leaps about and falls, as it were into convulsions or fits.

THE BROAD TAPE WORM - called, medically, bothriocephalus latus - the head is longer than it is broad; scarcely any neck. Its body is flat; generally from ten to twenty feet long, and at its broadest part from a quarter to half an inch across, and of a white color.

THE FLUKE WORM - This worm is about an inch long, and of a dirty, yellowish, greenish, or brownish color; you will know it by examining the worm which infests the livers of animals, as the sheep, the hog, the goat, &c. being the same worm.

It is extremely difficult to say, what are the original causes which produce worms. It is therefore, impossible that any physician, however learned he may be, to determine with any kind of certainty, their origin. That improper diet, or food assists in producing worms, is correct; but this is only true so far as this improper food disorders the stomach and bowels, and weakens their action; for worms seldom occur if the action of the bowels is healthy, strong, and vigorous.

"Few infants have worms until they are weaned, which is to be accounted for on the principle, that the bowels are in better order during suckling than afterwords, when the diet is more varied and indigestible." [To the learned and distinguished Robley Dunglison, Professor of the practice of Medicine in the University of Virginia, I am indebted for the highly valuable information on this subject.] Climate, infancy, weakened state of the bowels, and inproper food, favor the production of worms. That climate has a particular influence, and is favorable to the origin of certain worms, is evident. A fourth part of the inhabitance of Grand Cairo have the tape worm; and in Holland - according to Rosen it is quite common. In the United States it is quite rare.

SYMPTOMS. - The head is generally affected; the face is pale, and sometimes of the color of bees-wax; the lower eye lid, becomes a leaden color; itching is felt in the nose, occasionally picking it; the saliva, or spittle runs down over the pillow during sleep; the breath has a remarkable bad fetor, or bad smell; frightful dreams; the child cries in its sleep, and awakes with great terror; itching about the navel; creeping or tearing pain in the belly, or a prickling or gnawing about the stomach; constant hunger, and yet the system becomes weaker; frequent itching of the fundament; frequent dry cough, with tickling in the throat, accompanied with slow fever; these symptoms singly or together, denote the presence of worms.

TREATMENT. - A great many medicines are daily employed for worms. From long experience, and an extensive practice. I have had a fair opportunity of treating their virtues, at the head of which stands calomel, worm seed oil, Carolina pink root - sometimes called Indian pink root, or pink root - when properly given, are valuable medicines for expelling worms.

You are first to commence, by giving the child a suitable dose of calomel; you are occasionally to repeat this medicine as long as the stools have a offensive smell. On the days between the administering the colomel, give the child a little aloes, pounded very fine, and mixed with raw honey. " I have never known a case of failure," says a distinguished physician," when the patient or child, was freely purged with calomel, and then given either the worm seed oil, agreeably to the directions on the phials in which it is made, or the Indian pink root (Carolina Pink Root) in tea."

The oil should be given on an empty stomach in the morning, on a lump of sugar, and when the pink root is used, make a tea of it, by pouring a quart of boiling water on a handful of the roots, of which you are to give a cupful night and morning to the child; and to cause him to take it more readily, you may add milk and sugar; by this means children will take it as soon as any other tea. Sometimes the pink root will occasion the eyes to become sore; when this is the case, you are to stop using it until the eyes are perfectly well; this is produced, as is supposed from some other root which grows with the pink root, and is frequently gathered with it. After using the pink root for a week or ten days, take a dose of calomel or castor oil. In those species of worm which I have described, their expulsion or discharge is produced.

M. Cloquet, a distinguished physician of France, affirms, that he has seen the long worm, or the one to which children are most subject,evacuated, or discharged by stool, after the belly had been rubbed with a mixture of ox's gall and common soap, oil of tansy or of chamomile, mixed with spirits, garlic, and by the application of plaster composed of common yellow wax, litharage, assafoetida, and galbanum, applied to the belly. Pure air, simple digestible food, exercise, and the use of all those means by which the system is strengthened, should be attended to; otherwise as soon as they are expelled, they will again return. For this purpose, occasionally administer to the child or person subject to worms, a simple dose of Charcoal in new milk. According to the latest and most enlightened experience of the Medical Schools in Europe, Charcoal is highly recommended.