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Children's Symptoms > Abdomen (GI) Symptoms > Pinworms
Pinworms

DEFINITION

  • A tiny, harmless worm that lives in the colon and causes itching of the anus

Symptoms

  • Itching and irritation of the anal area and buttocks
  • Occasionally, migrates to the vagina and causes vaginal itching or discharge

Cause

  • A white, very thin, threadlike worm, about ¼ inch ( 6 mm) long
  • It moves (If it doesn't wiggle, it's probably lint or a thread)
  • The worm may be seen in the anal and buttock area, especially at night or early morning
  • Rarely the pinworm is seen on the surface of a stool.

Return to School

  • Children with pinworms do not need to miss any child care or school.

WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • Pinworm is seen (Reason: probably needs a prescription medicine)
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Red and tender skin around the anus
  • Anal itching persists over 1 week
  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Anal itching without pinworm being seen
  • Pinworm exposure or contact

HOME CARE ADVICE FOR PINWORMS

Treatment for Pinworms

  1. Pinworm Medicine:
    • If a pinworm was seen, your child's doctor will probably prescribe a special pinworm medicine. Take as directed.
    • Give a repeat dose of the pinworm medicine in 2 weeks (Reason: to prevent reinfection).
    • This interval is chosen because pinworm eggs can remain viable in the environment for 1 to 2 weeks, depending on room temperature and humidity.
  2. Contagiousness:
    • Pinworms are mildly contagious.
    • Treat family members only if they have symptoms.
    • If another child sleeps with the infected child, they also should be treated.
    • If any of the child's friends have similar symptoms, be sure to tell their parents to get them tested.
  3. Prevention: Wash hands and fingernails carefully before meals and after using toilet.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Anal symptoms last over 1 week on treatment

Treatment for Anal Itching Without Pinworm Being Seen

  1. Pinworm Checks: Check your child for pinworms.
    • Examine the area around the anus, using a flashlight.
    • Look for a ¼-inch (6 mm), white, threadlike worm that moves.
    • Do this a few hours after your child goes to bed and first thing in the morning for 2 consecutive nights.
  2. Scotch Tape Test: If no adult pinworm is seen, call your doctor's office for instructions on doing a Scotch-tape test for pinworm eggs or use the following technique:
    • Touch a piece of clear Scotch tape (with the sticky side down) to the skin on both sides of the anus. Do this in the morning soon after the child has awakened, and definitely before any bath or shower.
    • Do it 2 mornings in a row.
    • If no slide available, apply the piece of tape that has touched the skin to a second piece of tape.
    • Bring the 2 samples in for examination with a microscope.
  3. Steroid Cream: For the itching, wash the skin around the anus. For severe itch, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription needed) 4 times per day.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pinworm is seen
    • Skin around the anus becomes red or tender
    • Anal itching persists over 1 week
    • Your child becomes worse

Treatment for Pinworm Exposure or Contact

  1. Low Risk:
    • If your child has had contact with a child with pinworms but has no symptoms, (and over a month has passed), your child probably won't get them.
    • If contact is within the last 4 weeks, your child has a small chance of getting pinworms.
    • Pinworms are harmless and are never present very long without causing anal itching.
  2. Scotch Tape Test: If you're still concerned, call your doctor's office for instructions on doing a Scotch tape test for pinworm eggs in about 1 month. (Reason: The swallowed egg will not mature into an adult pinworm for 3 or 4 weeks.)
  3. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pinworm is seen (white, ¼ inch or 6 mm, and moves)
    • Anal itching persists over 1 week

Treatment for Reducing Reinfection or Spread to Others

  1. Preventing Infection:
    • Infection is caused by swallowing pinworm eggs.
    • A child can get pinworms no matter how carefully you keep the kids and the house clean.
    • The following hygiene measures, however, can help to reduce the chances of reinfection of your child and new infections in other people.
    • Pets don't carry pinworms.
  2. Hand-washing:
    • Have your child scrub the hands and fingernails thoroughly before each meal and after each use of the toilet.
    • Keep the fingernails cut short, because eggs can collect here.
    • Thumb-sucking and nail-biting should be discouraged.
  3. Shower: Each morning give your child a shower. Always rinse the anal area. Do this for 3 days after taking the pinworm medicine.
  4. Vacuum: Vacuum or wet-mop your child's bedroom once a week, because any eggs scattered on the floor are infectious for 1 or 2 weeks.
  5. Wash Clothes: Machine-washing at hot temperature will kill any eggs present in clothing or bedding.
  6. Contagiousness: Mildly contagious within the home. Children with pinworms do not need to miss any child care or school.

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.


Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 12/1/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.


Additional Resources:

 How to use the Adult Health Topics pages
 When to call the doctor
 Reviewers of Clinical Content

Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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