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Pinworm

This page was reviewed or revised on Friday, October 28, 2011 11:39 AM

What are pinworms?

Pinworms are small, white worms that live in the lower intestines. They are about the size of a staple and look like tiny pieces of white thread.

Pinworm eggs get inside the body through the mouth, and pass through the digestive system. The eggs hatch in the small intestine, and the baby worms grow and move to the large intestine. After a few weeks, the female pinworms move to the rectum and come out of the body at night to lay their eggs around the anus. At night, the adult worm can often be seen around the bum.

Pinworms are not a disease. Pinworms are common in children. They do not cause any harm, just itching.

Symptoms

If you have pinworms, you might see the worms in the toilet after going to the bathroom or on your underwear when you wake up in the morning. The eggs are too tiny to be seen by the eye.

Some people have itching around the bum, others have no symptoms.

How do they spread?

If someone has pinworms, the pinworm eggs can end up on anything they touch - a kitchen counter, in a bed, clothes, sheets and towels, eating utensils, toys, even a desk at school.

Eggs can live on the skin for several hours. When a child touches them, and puts their fingers in their mouth, they can swallow the eggs without even knowing it.

Pinworms do not come from pets, only people.

Do not share personal items, and wash towels, bedding, etc. in hot water.

How are pinworms diagnosed?

Since pinworms leave the body at night to lay eggs, check the child's bum area for adult worms early in the morning, before they use the toilet.

If you cannot see the worms, a "tape test" is a good way to find pinworm eggs. Place a strip of sticky tape on the skin around the bum. If there are eggs, they will be picked up by the tape. A healthcare provider will use a microscope to check for eggs.

Treatment

It will not take long to get rid of them:

  • See a doctor if you have signs/symptoms.
  • Most pinworm infections are mild and treated by oral medication.
  • Pinworms can spread easily; so close contacts may also need to be treated.

Preventing pinworms

The best way to prevent pinworms is to wash hands with warm, soapy water before eating, after being outside, and after using the toilet.

  • Keep nails clean, trimmed short and do not bite nails.
  • Try not to scratch the itchy bum area.
  • Shower or stand up in the bath in the morning to help reduce new eggs.
  • Do not share towels.
  • Change underwear and bed clothes daily.
  • Change bedding after each treatment.
  • Use the hot water setting on the washing machine to wash towels, bedding, clothing.
  • Eggs are sensitive to light. Open bedroom curtains/blinds during the day.
  • Children may return to childcare after treatment starts.

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