A specific, small, white worm causes pinworm infection. A separate species, also causing infection, has been reported in England.
Pinworms are visible to the naked eye. They are about the size of a staple, yellow-white in color, and look like a fine piece of thread, which moves actively.
Pinworms are spread by accidentally eating the eggs of the worm, which can be found on infected clothing, bedding, toys, or in the stool of an infected person.
Pinworms are most active at night, 2-3 hours after bedtime. The female worm comes out through the anus and deposits eggs in the perineal area. This area is between the anus and genitals.
Pinworms are more common in children 5-14 years old. Other factors that increase your chance of pinworms include:
- Contact with an infected person—usually a child or family member of the infected child
- Contact with contaminated clothing, bedding, or objects
- Regular exposure to schools, daycare centers, and other places where pinworms may be present
Symptoms may include:
- Itchy perineal area that is worse at night
- Disturbed sleep
Symptoms may be worse at night. While the itching caused by pinworms can be very disturbing, pinworms do not otherwise cause serious medical illness. Many people infected with pinworms have no symptoms.
When present, pinworms can frequently be seen in stool or on the skin around the anus. If pinworm infestation is suspected but no worms are seen, then the tape test is often used.
To detect the presence of pinworms, place a piece of clear adhesive tape over the anus, press, and remove. Repeat 2 to 3 times with new tape. Bring adhesive tape samples to the doctor, who will examine them for pinworms. Some laboratories supply special tape or pinworm paddles to use for this test.
The best time to do this test is 2 to 3 hours after bedtime, or before bathing in the early morning.
If treatment is needed, pinworm infections are most commonly treated with prescription medications. Pyrantel pamoate is available as an over-the-counter medication. These medications should be avoided if you are or may become pregnant. Talk to your doctor about therapy if you are or may become pregnant.
You should consult with your doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment. Medication is generally given in 2 or more doses, each separated by 2 weeks. To avoid reinfection, all members of the family should usually be treated.
- Change underwear, nightclothes, and sheets after each treatment.
- Wash all bedding every 3-7 days for 3 weeks.
- Wash underwear and pajamas daily for 2 weeks.
- Wash all clothing and toys to destroy remaining eggs.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Enterobiasis, Roundworm)
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases http://www.niaid.nih.gov
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
Enterobiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115562/Enterobiasis . Updated February 15, 2010. Accessed September 14, 2016.
Parasites—enterobiasis (also known as pinworm infection). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/pinworm. Updated January 10, 2013. Accessed July 25, 2013.