Master Oogway Kung Fu Panda

Just so no one gets mad at me, don’t read this if you have recently or plan to eat spaghetti or other similar dishes … on second thought, don’t read this if you are eating, have recently eaten, or plan to eat in the near future.

I used to work in a garage. All the mechanics used to complain that no one ever seemed to call them to ask them over for dinner. People only seemed to call the mechanics when they had a problem with their cars.

Same thing tends to happen a lot with Mrs. WhiteCoat and me. Just got a call from someone we haven’t seen in over a year wanting me to call in a prescription for antibiotics … to a friend we’ve never met … who has a cough.
Um … no.

Last week Mrs. WhiteCoat got a call from Melissa – one of our close friends – who didn’t want to engage in small talk. The concern in her voice was evident.
“We have a situation here.”
“OK …”
“Junior just pooped in his diaper … AND THERE’S A WORM SQUIRMING AROUND IN THERE!”
“You mean a live worm?”
“Eeeeewwwww. What does it look like?”
“You want me to get the diaper out of the garbage and bring it over to your house?”
“NO! Was it one of those little white pinworms?”
“NO! It was six inches long and wiggling all over the place!”

Then I get a phone call at work asking for advice about the wiggling worm.

“Did it smile?” I asked, chuckling at the description my wife gave me.
“That’s gross.”
“Did they see worm babies?”
“Stop being disgusting. What should they do?”
“Um … put it out in the garden?”
“You’re going to make me puke.”
“OK. Prescribe him some Vermox.”
“What if they see more worms?”
“Twirl them up with a fork and put them in the garden … er … um … flush them down the toilet. Seriously, if there are more worms up there, then they will come out in the stool – dead, hopefully.”

That day, Mrs. WhiteCoat fielded a half a dozen more calls from our friend.
“Can these things get into his liver?”
“I read on the internet that they can go to the lungs and Junior has a cough. Could he have worms in his lungs?”
“The other kids had stomach aches this week. Should I test them for the worms, too?”
I feel bad for the family and it is kind of gross, but come on – relax a little.

If you’re curious, you can read more about nematode (worm) infections here and here and here and here (including pictures). Bottom line in the US is that most infections are asymptomatic, but various nematode infections can cause rectal itching, skin rashes, bowel obstruction, pancreatitis, unexplained anemia, muscle aches, lung problems, and even fetal problems in pregnant women. To minimize your chances of getting infected, wash your hands frequently, don’t walk in sewage (some worms can penetrate skin), avoid contaminated food, don’t eat dirt, and wear insect repellent in areas where certain types of worm infections are endemic (filariasis can be spread by mosquitoes). Interesting tidbit for docs is that nematode infections are a consideration in patients with persistent unexplained eosinophilia.

Eventually, Melissa calmed down and the worm freakout subsided.

Because it is Christmas break at the schools, a select few kids get the honor of taking the science pets home for the holidays. Daughter WhiteCoat got the privilege of taking home the class turtle whom we named Master Oogway (pictured above) after the character in Kung Fu Panda.
Once we got his habitat set up at our house, we needed to feed him, so we used the internet to find out what turtles eat. Carrots, grapes, strawberries,  insects and crickets. For a special treat, they really like mealworms.

After reading the last sentence, I couldn’t keep a straight face when I asked Mrs. WhiteCoat:

“Hey … so how’s Melissa’s kid doing?”


  1. Poop worms are nasty little buggers!

    I haven’t seen them since I last visited the particular developing nation I hail from. Thanks for the warning about not reading the post while eating pasta!

  2. I must be sturdier than I thought… I was eating fudge with nuts while I read this. Didn’t think about that before now.

    If it really bothered these people, why didn’t they take Junior to his own doctor after the initial frightened phone call to their friends? I can understand the original freakout, but they should have followed up by taking the kid to the pediatrician.

  3. On the con side I read that TOO clean a stomach can mess up your immune system, immune system that is looking for something to fight, and might lead to Crohn’s disease.
    Found on the net.
    “In order to live as a parasite inside the human, the parasite must convince the host’s immune system to chill and not try to reject it. With hookworms, they secrete a chemical that distracts the immune system, dampening down its response. Hookworms are common in undeveloped countries, places where inflammatory bowel disease is rare.

    In the United States, thanks to advances in modern sanitation techniques, hookworms are rare but immune disorders on the rise. “

    • LibraryGryffon on

      That was actually a story line on House a short while ago. They ended up redosing the patient with worms to cure him.

    • Interesting you should bring that up. Wish I could remember where I saw it, but I recall reading articles about the possibility that some kinds of worms might be useful in the treatment of some autoimmune disorders. Sure would be great.

  4. Perhaps I have been working in remote health too long. I couldn’t understand why there was even a need to call anyone about it in the first place.

    And we treat all the time out here on those with high eosinophils for strongyloides.


  5. LibraryGryffon on

    Our box turtle never had worms (that we saw), but my father’s co-workers (both marine biologists), greeted her with “Hello, do you have salmonella?” while chucking her under the chin. These same people tried out the entire dinner one time on our Oscar, since we kept tanks in the dining room. Oscars like beef strogonof. They do not like broccoli.

    This same turtle, in addition to her regular diet of fruits and veggies, loved raw hamburger meat, preferable already seasoned.

  6. LOL! Very funny. Enjoyed the post.

    But then, my family is very strange. One of our favorite occupations is cruising Livejournal’s Zit Fetish community for the grossest videos of zits, cysts, and other obnoxious things being emptied. Anyone for a guinea worm?

    Or Youtube…loaded with stuff like tonsil stone removal.

    Merry ChristmaChanuKwanzukkah!

  7. Mmm dirt; om nom nom. Apparently I used to eat clay as a child, never got told that it gave me worms though (luckily).

  8. RELAX???!!!

    I’d be that farrreaking out friend calling your wife! 🙂

    This reminds me of how I freaked out about drinking our cat’s water last March. I never did put up the explanation post. maybe after Christmas.

    But I also researched on the net and read about the lings, liver, heart, eyes, brain, etc., being compromised. yet I refused doing a stool sample and told my doc only if I had urge to skootch along the carpet. 🙂

    I eventually did though.

    I did notice that many of these sites that told the horrors of worm infestations were also selling liver/bowel cleanses.

    Suffice it to know.. I was NOT relaxed about it ..initially.

    Years ago one of the ED nurses told me that if a parent suspects worms in their child..they can put a piece of scotch tape on the anus (can’t believe I just typed THAT word)at bedtime and they come out at night and will be stuck to the tape which you can then see if they have them.

    • SeaSpray, that’s old school test for pinworms. Usually, kids that have them (and it’s very common) are constantly scratching or complaining of rectal (that would be a technical term) itching. The O&P is the more medical test currently, but if you use scotch tape you can sometimes see worms or eggs on it. Here’s a link to some light reading for you if you are interested:

  9. Funny, funny post. I hope you don’t get a worm call for a while, since you just took one for the team! And about relatives and friends crawling out of the woodwork for Rxs, ughhhhh! Nothing drives me crazier! I hope you have a great holidays.

  10. Melissa (oddharmonic) on

    I have a great photo saved from another medical blog, maybe M.D.O.D?, of a metal pan full of parasitic worms. Looks just like spaghetti if you’re not paying attention.

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