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Facts About...


What is it?

Pinworm is a common, mild infection that often affects school children and preschoolers. It can often infect more than one person in the family. Pinworms are microscopic (very small) white thread-like worms that live in the rectum. All ages and classes of people can be affected. It is very common in preschoolers and spreads easily among children and staff in child care settings.

How is it spread?

  • Pinworm infection can be spread directly when an infected person scratches the itchy area and transfers eggs to their mouth, or another person’s mouth.
  • It can also be spread indirectly (by touching hands or objects that have the worms or eggs on them, such as shared toys).
  • Pinworm eggs are picked up on the hands ingested or swallowed. The eggs travel to the intestines (gut) where they hatch and mature. The mature worms travel to the anus (bum) where they lay a new batch of eggs (usually at night). This can result in itchiness.

Scratching the infested anal area can transfer the eggs to hands which can be spread to others. They can also be spread by touching clothing, bedding, food, toys or other articles that have the eggs on them. These eggs can live for up to 3 weeks outside the body, on clothing, bedding or other objects.

What do I look for?

Itching around the anus, disturbed sleep, and irritability are the most common symptoms. Sometimes the scratched skin may become infected by other germs. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.

Diagnosis is made by either seeing adult worms in the anus region (best examined 2-3 hours after person is asleep).Diagnosis can also be made by touching transparent adhesive tape (scotch tape) to the area around the anus and having the tape studied under a microscope for eggs.

How is it treated?

Treatment is available from your doctor and may have to be repeated. Entire families may have to be treated if several members are infected.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food. Use hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Keep nails short and prevent children from scratching the anal area and nail biting.
  • Identify and treat cases to remove sources of infection.
  • Daily morning shower or stand up bath is better than tub baths. Taking early morning showers helps wash away any eggs that may have been left around the anal area overnight.
  • Change bed linens, underclothing after bathing and change night clothes and bed sheets often. Handle them without shaking (which can scatter the eggs). Wash clothing and linens in hot water.
  • Eggs are sensitive to sunlight, open blinds or curtain in bedrooms/sleeping areas during the day.
  • Clean/vacuum the house daily for several days after treatment of cases.
  • Clean toilet areas thoroughly and often.
  • Toys, equipment and commonly touched surfaces should be cleaned often.
  • If you are ill, stay at home and isolate yourself from others.

February 2015