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Alternative Names Return to topEnterobiasis; Oxyuriasis; Threadworm; Seatworm; Enterobius vermicularis; E vermicularis; Helminthic infection
Definition Return to top
Pinworms are small worms that infect the intestines.
Causes Return to top
Pinworms are the most common worm infection in the United States. They are most common in school-age children.
Pinworm eggs are spread directly from person to person. They can also be spread by touching bedding, food, or other items contaminated with the eggs.
Typically, children are infected by unknowingly touching pinworm eggs and putting their fingers in their mouths. The eggs are swallowed, and eventually hatch in the small intestine. The worms mature in the colon.
Female worms then move to the child's anal area, especially at night, and deposit more eggs. This may cause intense itching. The area may even become infected. When the child scratches the itching anal area, the eggs can get under the child's fingernails. These eggs can be transferred to other children, family members, and items in the house.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Pinworms can be spotted in the anal area, especially at night when the worms lay their eggs there.
Your doctor may have you do a tape test. A piece of cellophane tape is pressed against the skin around the anus, and removed. This should be done in the morning before bathing or using the toilet, because bathing and wiping may remove eggs. The doctor will stick the tape to a slide and look for eggs using a microscope.
Treatment Return to top
The main treatment is a single dose of either mebendazole or albendazole (anti-parasitic medication). These are available over-the-counter and by prescription.
More than one household member is likely to be infected, so the entire household is often treated. The single-dose treatment is often repeated after 2 weeks. This treats eggs that hatched since the first treatment.
To control the eggs:
Avoid scratching the infected area around the anus. This can contaminate your fingers and everything else that you touch afterwards.
Keep your hands and fingers away from your nose and mouth unless they are freshly washed. Carry out these measures while family members are being treated for pinworms.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Pinworm infection is fully treatable.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
Wash hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food. Wash bedding and underclothing frequently, especially those of any affected family members.Update Date: 8/1/2008 Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.