Pinworms are small, white worms that live in the colon. While the male worm usually dies, the female pinworm will travel to the rectum to lay her eggs on the anus, causing the human to experience intense itchiness.
“Pinworm is the most common worm infestation in humans,” says proctologist Dr. David Rosenfeld. “Forty million Americans have them, and most don’t know that they have it.”
Dr. Rosenfeld explains that the infection is most common in children, where it can spread quickly, similar to lice.
Pinworm is typically spread person to person when an infected person scratches the infected area, getting pinworm eggs under their fingernails, which can then be deposited onto sheets, pillow cases, and any other common surface.
Though some people may not experience any symptoms, others may experience:
- Intense itchiness in and around the anus
- Disrupted sleep
If you notice your child is scratching their bottom frequently, or exhibiting discomfort, Dr. Rosenfeld advises that you should wait until they are asleep and take a flashlight to inspect the area. Though eggs are microscopic and can’t be detected just by looking, you can use tape to take a sample of the area to your doctor’s office, which the doctor can then examine under a microscope to aid in diagnosis.
If pinworm is diagnosed, the doctor will recommend that the entire family be treated.
According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment typically involves oral medication to kill the pinworms, and extensive cleaning of the home, including washing linen and clothing.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork stresses the importance of thoroughly washing your hands to prevent the spread of infections.