Pinworms in Kids
Pinworms, also called threadworms, are tiny, parasitic, thread-like worms that live in the human colon and rectum. They are white or light gray in color and one-quarter to one-half inch in size – almost similar to the size of a staple. Pinworms in kids are visible to the naked eye while their eggs are small and transparent and can be seen only using a microscope.
Pinworm infection is one of the common types of intestinal human worm infection worldwide. It is also known as enterobiasis or oxyuriasis, affecting millions of people each year, especially school-aged children ages 5 to 10 years old. This infection is highly contagious. It can easily spread to household members. Pinworms do not cause any harm and serious medical problems. They are easy to get rid of with proper medication.
What Are the Causes of Pinworm Infection?
You can get infected by pinworms when you unintentionally ingest or inhale pinworm eggs. These microscopic eggs can be brought to your mouth by contaminated food and drink.
How Do Pinworms Cause an Infection?
Once the eggs enter your body, they hatch and become adult worms inside the intestine. They live there as parasites. After one to two months, female pinworms crawl out of the intestinal tract and lay thousands of eggs on the skin around the anus. This usually happens when you are asleep.
The deposited eggs around the anus can trigger itchiness in that area. When you scratch that area, the eggs can transfer to your fingers or under your fingernails. These eggs can go back into your body when you touch your mouth with your contaminated hands. They can also stay on various objects such as towels, clothes, bedding, toilet seats, tables, kitchen utensils, or toys.
Why Are Children Prone to Pinworms?
Children are prone to pinworm infection because they tend to put contaminated toys and other objects directly to their mouths. Pinworm eggs can live outside the body for two to three weeks. Touching or scratching a surface contaminated with eggs can restart the entire pinworm life process that leads to reinfection. If it is not treated, the disease will continue indefinitely.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Pinworm Infection?
The most common symptom of pinworm infection is itching around the anus, especially at night. In girls, the infection may spread to the vagina. This frequent and intense itchiness can cause restless sleep and discomfort to your child. Rash and skin irritation around the anus can also develop.
If you suspect your child to be infected, you can check the presence of pinworms in the area of their anus. You might also see the worms on your child’s underwear in the morning, or in the toilet after they use it.
Your child may also experience abdominal pain and nausea that comes and goes. Some people infected with pinworms do not experience any symptoms. However, if the infection is substantial, the symptoms can be equally severe.
What Are the Treatments for Pinworm Infection?
If you think your child is infected with pinworms, it is best to bring them to the doctor. The doctor may recommend over-the-counter treatment like pyrantel pamoate, or prescription anti-worm medicine, like albendazole and mebendazole. Albendazole and mebendazole are medicines that block the pinworm’s ability to absorb glucose, thus killing them within a few days. Pyrantel pamoate is a medicine that paralyzes the worms.
Pinworms in kids can be easily treated with these oral anti-worm medications. Treatment also involves preventing reinfection. The doctor may suggest treating everyone in the household at the same time to prevent infection and reinfection. This includes the entire family and others who have close contact with the infected individual.
The treatment for pinworms in kids can take up to two weeks. The first dose kills existing adult pinworms. Another dose may be repeated after two weeks to kill any new adult worms that have hatched from any remaining eggs. Your child may continue to experience itchiness even during medication. The doctor may give them cream or ointment to soothe itching skin around the anus.
Food and herbs that have antiparasitic properties (such as garlic, coconut, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds and grated carrots) are considered by some people as another treatment option for pinworm infection. However, there are no scientific studies that support the effectiveness of these home remedies. It is always best to ask your doctor before trying these.
How to Clear Your Home From Pinworms
Along with the medication, your family should follow a strict hygiene method. This will help in eliminating pinworm eggs completely.
Clean Your House
Household cleaning and regular handwashing with soap, especially after using the restroom and before eating, are crucial.
Do Your Laundry
Bed linens, towels, pajamas and underwear should be thoroughly washed with hot water and dried on high heat. Shaking the linens should be avoided to keep pinworm eggs from spreading into the air.
All the household members are encouraged to take a shower and change their underwear every morning. Do not allow your children to bathe together to avoid the spreading of pinworm eggs in the bathwater. Keep your fingernails short and clean. Avoid scratching around your bottom area. Tell your kids to stop biting their nails.
Clean any surface that may be infected, including floors, countertops, toilet seats and toys. It is best to vacuum all carpeted areas as well.
These hygiene routines are usually recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, as they are not advisable to take medications for pinworm infection. The same is also applicable for children below 2 years old. The decision should be made by the doctor if medication is considered necessary. Following these practices of good hygiene and proper medication will greatly help eradicate pinworm infection.