IllnessPinworms or Enterobiasis

Pinworms or Enterobiasis

By Joanna Zamora (She/Her)
Reviewed by expert pediatric providers
Skip ahead:

How severe are Pinworms?

Pinworm infections are typically mild. While pinworm infections can be uncomfortable, many people with Pinworms have no symptoms. Pinworms are easily transferable between members of a household, so we do recommend seeing a doctor to seek treatment if you suspect someone in your household has Pinworms.

What causes Pinworms?

A tiny worm called enterobius vermicularis that sometimes lives in the colon and rectum of humans is the cause. Pinworms are about the length of a staple. During a pinworm infection, female Pinworms leave the intestine through the anus and deposit their eggs on the surrounding skin. We know, eww.

It gets worse, pinworm infection is spread by the fecal-oral route—when your kiddo ingests pinworm eggs transferred from another person’s anus. Folks become infected, usually unknowingly, by swallowing pinworm eggs that are on fingers, under fingernails, or on clothing, bedding, and other contaminated objects and surfaces. Because of their small size, pinworm eggs sometimes can become airborne and ingested while breathing.

Who gets Pinworms?

Pinworms usually infect preschool and school-aged kiddos. Basically anywhere kids are in close quarters and handwashing might be less than ideal. Pinworm infections are widespread and the most common type of worm infection in the US.

Are Pinworms contagious?

Highly Contagious
Spreads by direct or indirect contact

Pinworm infections are easily passed between members of a household. Just think about how often your little kids touch you and each other. If any of the kiddos in your household have a suspected pinworm infection, we usually recommend treating everyone in the household.

How do you know if your child has Pinworms?

We’re not going to lie, this is one of the grosser childhood diseases. The first symptom of pinworm infections is a persistently itchy anus, especially at night. Itching can lead to troubled or restless sleep for little ones. Sometimes you can see the worms on your kiddo’s skin near the anus or on underwear, pajamas, or sheets if you check 2-3 hours after they fall asleep. The Pinworms are thin, white, and about the size of a staple.

How to protect your child from Pinworms

Handwashing is the best defense here. Keeping kiddos' nails on the shorter side so they can’t trap yucky stuff helps too.

What to do if your child has Pinworms?

When to seek medical care

Pinworm is not serious, but it is easily transferable between household members. If you suspect a Pinworm infection, schedule a visit with your healthcare provider so your whole family can begin treatment. 

You may have to do a “tape test” with your kiddo to confirm a diagnosis of pinworm. To do a tape test, take a piece of clear cellophane tape and press it to the skin around your kid’s anus, right after they wake up, before they shower, or use the restroom. You may need to repeat this a few days in a row depending on the needs of your healthcare provider. We know, parenting is a party. 

Treatment

Treatment involves two doses of medication of which the second dose is administered 2 weeks after the first dose.

How to prevent the spread of Pinworms in your household

  • Take extra care with thorough handwashing, especially after toileting and/or diaper changes. 
  • Shower your kiddo in the morning to remove any pinworm eggs laid at night. 
  • Keep your infected kid’s nails trimmed short. 
  • Avoid bathing or showering kiddos together until the infection is cleared.
  • Make sure your kiddo doesn’t share towels with other members of your household and wash your infected kid’s sheets, towels and underwear every day in hot water.

Duration

Pinworms can usually be cleared up within 2 weeks with treatment.

Anything else?

Pinworms are gross, but they’re common, not serious and we’re here to get you through.

DisclaimerThis illness guide is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
911If you think your child may have a life threatening emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
Headshot of Joanna Zamora
Joanna Zamora (She/Her)

Dr. Joanna Zamora is a board-certified pediatrician with over 10 years of clinical experience. Dr. Zamora graduated Summa Cum Laude from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance and Psychology. She attended medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center and completed her pediatric residency training at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Zamora was born in South Africa, spent her childhood in Canada, and is now happy to call Portland home. Dr. Zamora is passionate about providing trauma-informed care and helping families navigate a complex healthcare system.