Pinworms in Children

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What are pinworms/thread worms?

Pinworms (aka) Threadworms are any long slender roundworms, commonly found in preschool and school aged children. They often occur in more than one family member.

Thread worms look like white threads, about 8 mm long. They live in the lower intestine, but come out of the bottom at night or in the early morning hours to lay their eggs in the area between the buttocks. This causes very annoying itching in the area especially at night.

How do you know if your child has worms?

You may be able to see the pinworms which look like pieces of white thread in your child’s poop. You may see one or several. Your child may exhibit symptoms which include:

  • Itchiness of the anus or vagina; particularly at night as the worms usually come out of the child’s anus (bottom) at night whilst the child is sleeping. You may find worms on your child’s pajamas or underclothes.
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability or disturbed sleep

Less common signs of pinworm include:

  • An irritated area around the child’s anus
  • Weight loss
  • Bedwetting

Treatment of pinworms

Pinworms can usually be treated at home with medicine available from your pharmacy. It is important that you treat everyone in the household even if they do not exhibit any symptoms of threadworms. It is very important also that any repeat dose of the medicine is taken promptly in order to prevent re-infestation.

If your child is under the age of two speak to the pharmacies who may require you to speak to your doctor. Likewise if you are pregnant or breastfeeding always speak to the pharmacist.

How pinworms spread

Threadworms spread when their eggs are swallowed; they lay eggs around the anus making it itchy; the eggs then become stuck under the finger nails when the child scratches and can then be passed on by anything they touch including:

  • Towels
  • Toys and books
  • Bedding and clothes
  • Bathroom and kitchen surfaces or door handles
  • Food and cutlery or plates
  • Pets

The eggs are then pass to other people who touch these surfaces and get the eggs on their hands and then ingest the eggs through their mouth. Children can be re-infected with threadworm after they have been treated if they are exposed to the eggs again so it is very important to encourage handwashing.

Advice for families dealing with pinworm infection

  • Encourage children to wash their hands regularly
  • Keep finger nails clipped short
  • Bathe or shower each morning
  • Wash sleepwear and bedding and soft toys or blankets
  • Take special care to disinfect bathroom and kitchen surfaces and other household surfaces your child touches
  • Rinse toothbrushes before using them
  • Wear underwear at night and change and wash in the morning
  • Discourage biting nails or thumb sucking
  • Do not shake out bedding or nightclothes which may disperse eggs to other areas of the room
  • Do not share towels or flannels

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