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Definition

What is a pinworm infection?

A pinworm infection is considered one of the most common types of human intestinal worm infection. Pinworms are tiny, narrow worms. They are white in color and less than half an inch long. A pinworm infection, also known as enterobiasis or oxyuriasis, is the most common type of worm infection in humans in the United States. Pinworms infections can spread easily. They are most common in children between the ages of 5 and 10, people who live in institutions, and those who have regular, close contact with individuals in these groups. An effective treatment for pinworms infections is medication, though reinfection is possible. Serious complications and long-term health effects are rare

How common are pinworm infections?

Pinworm infections commonly occur in all parts of the world. It is most common worm infection in the developed world However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of pinworms?

The common symptoms of this condition are:

  • Itching of the anal or vaginal area
  • Insomnia, irritability and restlessness
  • Intermittent abdominal pain and nausea
  • Pinworms often cause no symptoms.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes a pinworm infection?

Pinworms infections are highly contagious. You become infected with pinworms by unintentionally ingesting (or inhaling) pinworm eggs, usually deposited by an infected person onto an object. The cycle of infection begins with the ingestion of these microscopic eggs.

Once the eggs enter your body, they remain in the intestine until they hatch and mature. As adults, the female pinworms move into the colon and exit the body through the anus. Female pinworms lay eggs in the folds of skin around the anus. The presence of these eggs often causes anal itching and irritation.

When a person scratches the affected area, the pinworm eggs transfer to the fingers. The eggs can survive for several hours on your hands. If the infected person touches bedding, clothing, toilet seats, toys, or other household objects, the eggs transfer to these objects. Pinworm eggs can survive on these contaminated surfaces for up to three weeks.

Children transfer pinworm eggs easily because they may put infected toys or other objects directly into their mouths. The eggs can also transfer from contaminated fingers directly to food or liquids. While uncommon, it’s also possible for adults to inhale airborne eggs when shaking contaminated bedding, towels, or clothing.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for a pinworm infection?

There are many risk factors for this condition, such as:

  • Children who attend day care, preschool, or elementary school
  • Family members or caregivers of infected children and adults
  • Individuals who live in institutions or other crowded accommodations
  • Children or adults who don’t practice regular and careful hand-washing prior to eating
  • Children who have a habit of sucking their thumbs

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are pinworm infections diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. A tape test is the most reliable method for diagnosing a pinworms infection. A tape test contains of taking a piece of cellophane tape and pressing the sticky, adhesive side against the skin around the anus. Since pinworms often exit the anus while the infected person sleeps, you should conduct a tape test upon waking in the morning. If eggs are present, they will stick to the tape. Take the tape to your doctor, who can place it on a slide and examine it under a microscope to see if it contains pinworms eggs. Routine morning activities, such as bathing or using the toilet, can remove eggs from your skin, so the results of a tape test are most accurate if you perform the test when you first wake up. The CDC recommends that you conduct a tape test at least three times, on three consecutive mornings, to increase your likelihood of finding pinworms eggs.

How are pinworm infections treated?

To treat pinworm infection, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pyrantel pamoate (Reese’s Pinworms Medication, Pin-X) or prescribe medication to all members of your household to prevent infection and reinfection.

The most common prescription anti-parasite medications for pinworms are:

  • Mebendazole
  • Albendazole (Albenza)

You may have mild gastrointestinal side effects during the course of treatment, and you often need to take at least two doses to get rid of the pinworms completely.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pinworm infections?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this condition:

Wash in the morning

Because pinworms lay their eggs at night, washing the anal area in the morning can help reduce the number of pinworm eggs on your body. Showering may help avoid possible recontamination in bath water.

Change underwear and bed linen daily

This helps remove eggs.

Launder in hot water

Wash bedsheets, nightclothes, underwear, washcloths and towels in hot water to help kill pinworm eggs. Dry on high heat.

Don’t scratch

Avoid scratching the anal area. Trim your child’s fingernails so there’s less space for eggs to collect. Discourage nail biting.

Wash your hands

To reduce your risk of getting or spreading an infection, wash your hands thoroughly after having a bowel movement or changing a diaper and before eating.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 28, 2017 | Last Modified: August 28, 2017

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