What Is a Pinworm Infection?
infection is one of the most common types of human intestinal worm infection.
Pinworms are tiny, narrow worms. They’re 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,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and
infections can spread easily. They’re 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 pinworm
infections is medication, though reinfection is possible. Serious complications
and long-term health effects are rare.
What Causes a Pinworm Infection?
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.
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
Who Is at Risk for a Pinworm Infection?
infections affect people of all ages and geographical regions. Since the
pinworm eggs are microscopic, it’s impossible to avoid infected individuals or areas.
can get a pinworm infection, the following groups are more susceptible:
who attend day care, preschool, or elementary school
members or caregivers of infected children and adults
who live in institutions or other crowded accommodations
or adults who don’t practice regular and careful handwashing prior to eating
who have a habit of sucking their thumbs
What Are the Symptoms of a Pinworm Infection?
individuals with pinworm infections may not experience any symptoms. However,
you may suspect that you or your child has a pinworm infection if you notice:
and strong itching of the anal area
sleep due to itching and discomfort of anal area
rash, or other skin irritation around the anus
of pinworms in the area of your child’s anus
of pinworms in stools
How Is a Pinworm Infection Diagnosed?
A tape test is
the most reliable method for diagnosing a pinworm infection. A tape test
consists 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 pinworm eggs.
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 pinworm eggs.
What Are the Treatment Options for a Pinworm
can usually treat a pinworm infection effectively with oral medication. Since
pinworms pass so easily from one person to another, everyone living in the
household of an infected person usually needs treatment at the same time to
prevent reinfection. Caregivers and others who have close, personal contact
with the individual also receive treatment.
common and effective medications to treat pinworm infection are:
One course of
medication usually involves an initial dose, followed by a second dose two to
three weeks later. More than one course may be necessary to fully eliminate the
pinworm eggs. Creams or ointments can soothe itching skin in the area around
Clearing Your Home of Pinworms
In addition to
medication, a specific regimen of hygiene and household cleaning can help you
completely eliminate the pinworm eggs. This regimen is below.
that the infected person and other household members practice thorough handwashing
with warm water and soap, especially before eating.
everyone in the household to shower and change their underwear every morning.
everyone’s fingernails and cut them short.
the infected person and others to stop biting their nails.
the infected person to refrain from scratching the anal area.
hot water to launder all bedding, towels, washcloths, and clothing in the
affected house. Dry these items using high heat.
shaking clothing and bedding to keep pinworm eggs from spreading into the air.
allow children to bathe together, as this can cause pinworm eggs to spread in
the bath water.
clean any surfaces that may be infected, including toys, floors, countertops,
and toilet seats.
vacuum all carpeted areas.
Humans are the
only pinworm hosts. Your cat or dog can’t infect you or be infected with
pinworms. It’s not necessary to treat your pets for the infection.
What Are the Complications Associated with a
don’t experience serious complications as a result of pinworm infections.
Rarely, if the infestation is left untreated, pinworm infections can sometimes
cause a urinary tract infection in women. Pinworms can also travel from the
anus into the vagina, affecting the uterus, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic
organs. Vaginitis, endometritis (an inflammation of the uterine lining), or
other infections may result.
of a significant number of pinworms can cause abdominal pain.
pinworm populations can rob your body of essential nutrients, which can cause
How Can I Prevent a Pinworm Infection?
The best way
to prevent pinworm infections and reinfections is to follow recommended hygiene
routines and encourage other household members, especially children, to do the
same. You can work to prevent pinworm infections with several practices,
your hands with warm water and soap after using the toilet. Be especially
careful after bowel movements and changing diapers. Do the same before
preparing food and eating. This is the BEST mode of prevention.
your fingernails short and clean.
habits such as nail biting or scratching that could spread pinworm eggs.
daily in the morning to remove pinworm eggs that may have been deposited
your underwear and clothing daily.
hot water in the washing machine, followed by a hot dryer, to launder bedding,
clothing, and towels that may contain pinworm eggs.
rooms well lit during the day because the eggs are sensitive to sunlight.
What Is the Long-Term Outlook?
to eradicate a pinworm infection with medication and the recommended cleaning
regimen. However, because pinworm eggs are invisible to the naked eye and are
highly contagious, reinfection can easily occur. A person can reinfect
themselves or become reinfected by eggs from another person. If you experience
recurrent infections after you have treated your household, individuals and
locations outside of the household may be the primary source of the pinworm