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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Handwashing is the best defense here. Keeping kiddos' nails on the shorter side so they can’t trap yucky stuff helps too.
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 involves two doses of medication of which the second dose is administered 2 weeks after the first dose.
Pinworms can usually be cleared up within 2 weeks with treatment.
Pinworms are gross, but they’re common, not serious and we’re here to get you through.
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.