Itchy but Harmless

November 30, 2017
Itchy but Harmless

We all prefer worms in the park, but sometimes they end up inside our children!

Pinworms are the most common worm infection in the U.S.

  • Infection can occur at any age but is most common in school aged children
  • Pinworms are very small, thin white worms (the length of staple, the width of a thread)
  • Pinworms eggs are swallowed, hatch into worms in the intestines and female worms leave the intestines at night to lay eggs in the skin around the anus


What are the Symptoms?

  • Itching around the anus at night.  This itching can be intense for some and can cause restless sleep.
  • Vaginal itching
  • In more severe cases, abdominal pain, nausea and even vomiting
  • Some people will have no symptoms


How do you Catch Pinworms?

  • Pinworm eggs can live for 2-3 weeks in the environment.  Some eggs can even be in the air.
  • Eggs that get on hands or are in the air can be swallowed
  • Symptoms will appear within 1-2 months of swallowing eggs



  • You may be able to see the small worms on the skin around the anus 2-3 hours after your child has gone to sleep
  • You can press clear tape on the skin around the anus when your child awakes up which can pick up eggs on the tape.  Your doctor can then look at the tape under the microscope to make the diagnosis.



  • Discuss treatment for pinworms with your pediatrician
    • Medications are available both over the counter (pyrantel pamoate) and by prescription (albendazole and mebendazole)
    • Pyrantel pamoate is not approved in children under 2 years and does not kill pinworm eggs
    • Medication is taken by mouth 1 time and then repeated again in 2 weeks.
  • Your doctor may recommend treating other family members.
  • Reinfection is common!



  • Wash hands frequently
  • Bathe/shower daily
  • Keep fingernails short and encourage your children not to scratch in their anal area
  • Wash clothes and linens in hot water and with high heat


Remember: Pinworm infections do not cause serious health problems!  Contact your pediatrician if you are concerned your child may have pinworms, but try not to panic!


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