What are the symptoms of pinworms?
Usually, people with pinworms have no symptoms. However, the area around the anus and vagina can get very itchy. In a serious infection, symptoms can also include:
- loss of appetite
- difficulty sleeping
You should see a health care provider if the illness seems to be causing more serious symptoms.
How do pinworms spread?
Pinworms are spread from unwashed hands. Pinworm eggs get on the hands or under the fingernails after scratching around the anus or having contact with the surrounding skin. Eggs that are on the hands can be transferred to objects or surfaces in the environment and get picked up by others. Eventually the hands touch food or enter the mouth directly (for example through nail biting) and the eggs go in the mouth.
Pinworms spread easily in families, daycare centres and other places where groups of people live. They can also spread through sexual contact.
Eggs can live for up to 2 weeks outside the body on clothing, bedding, or other objects. The eggs turn into worms in about a month.
How are pinworms treated?
Checking for pinworms
A health care provider can do a simple test to check for pinworms using transparent adhesive tape (called “the scotch tape test”) or a pinworm paddle applied to the anal area. The pinworm eggs become glued to the sticky tape or paddle, and are identified under a microscope.
Getting rid of pinworms
- Pinworms can be treated with a medication that can take up to 2 weeks to work. The itching can continue for at least a week after taking the medication. Your health care provider might tell you to take a second dose after 2 weeks.
- Pinworms can come back if you come into contact with pinworm eggs again.
- The eggs are sensitive to sunlight, so open blinds or curtains in bedrooms during the day.
- If your child has pinworms, ask your health care provider if all members of your household should be treated.
- Inform the school or daycare if your child has pinworms.
How are pinworms prevented?
- Handwashing is the most effective way to prevent pinworms.
- Make sure that all household members wash their hands carefully after going to the toilet or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
- Keep nails short and avoid nail biting and scratching the anal area.
- Wash all the bed linen. Avoid shaking them because this can scatter the eggs.
- Frequently changing underclothes and bed sheets may decrease the risk of reinfection.