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Health Information For Parents
Pinworm is an intestinal infection caused by tiny parasitic worms. It’s a common infection that affects millions of people each year, particularly school-age kids.
If your child develops a pinworm infection, try not to worry. Pinworms don’t cause any harm (just itching and restless sleep), and it won’t take long to get rid of them.
Pinworm infections (also known as “seatworm infection” or “threadworm infection”) are contagious.
Pinworms get into the body when people ingest or breathe in the microscopic pinworm eggs. These eggs can be found on contaminated hands and surfaces, such as:
The eggs pass into the digestive system and hatch in the small intestine. From the small intestine, pinworm larvae go to the large intestine, where they live as parasites (with their heads attached to the inside wall of the bowel).
About 1 to 2 months later, adult female pinworms leave the large intestine through the anus (the opening where bowel movements come out). They lay eggs on the skin right around the anus, which triggers itching in that area. Often, this happens at night.
When someone scratches the itchy area, microscopic pinworm eggs transfer to their fingers. Contaminated fingers can then carry pinworm eggs to the mouth, where they go back into the body, or stay on various surfaces, where they can live for 2 to 3 weeks.
If you’re wondering if your family pet could give your child a pinworm infection, it can’t. Pinworms don’t come from animals.
The most common signs of a pinworm infection are itching around the anus and restless sleep. The itching is usually worse at night because the worms move to the area around the anus to lay their eggs. In girls, pinworm infection can spread to the vagina and cause a vaginal discharge. If the itching breaks the skin, it also could lead to a bacterial skin infection.
If your child has a pinworm infection, you can see worms in the anal region, especially if you look about 2 or 3 hours after your child has fallen asleep. You also might see the worms in the toilet after your child goes to the bathroom. They look like tiny pieces of white thread and are really small — about as long as a staple. You might also see them on your child’s underwear in the morning.
Belly pain and nausea are less common symptoms but can happen if there are many pinworms in the intestines.
Your doctor may ask you to help make the diagnosis of pinworm by placing a sticky piece of clear cellophane tape against the skin around your child’s anus. Pinworm eggs will stick to the tape and can be seen under a microscope. The best time to do this is at night or in the morning before a bath (when there’s the most pinworm activity around the anus). The doctor also might take some samples from under a child’s fingernails to look for eggs.
If your child has a pinworm infection, the doctor will recommend an over-the-counter or prescription antiworm medicine. This is given in one dose and repeated in 2 weeks. The doctor may decide to treat the entire family, especially if your child has had a pinworm infection before.
Although medicine takes care of the worm infection, the itching may continue for about a week. So the doctor also might give your child a cream or other medicine to help stop the itching.
Regular hand washing and routine household cleaning (including frequent changing of underwear, and washing everyone’s pajamas, towels, and bed linens) also will help prevent the spread of a pinworm infection within the family.
Here are a few ways to prevent pinworm infections in your family:
Call the doctor if your child complains of itchy skin or always seems to be scratching the anal or vaginal area.
Also ask about whether pinworms could be to blame if your child has trouble sleeping or has begun to wet the bed. (Pinworms can irritate the urethra — the channel through which pee leaves the bladder and exits the body — and lead to bedwetting.)
Remember that pinworms are quite common among kids and aren’t harmful. By taking medicine and following some prevention tips, you’ll be rid of the worms in no time.
Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading. Learn all about the best way to wash your hands in this article for kids.
It’s gross to think about but did you know that tiny worm eggs could be under your fingernails? Learn more about how to protect yourself from getting pinworms.
Ascariasis is an intestinal infection that occurs when the eggs of a parasitic roundworm are ingested. Read about signs and symptoms, treatment, and tips for prevention.
Washing your hands well and often is the best way to keep from getting sick. Here’s how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.
This exam may be done if your child has diarrhea for an extended period, blood or mucus in the stool, abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, or fever.
Amebiasis is an intestinalÂ illness transmitted when someone eats or drinks something that’s contaminated with a microscopic parasite.
Tapeworms are usually more upsetting to think about than to deal with. Tapeworm infections are rare in the United States, and they’re usually easy to treat.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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