WHAT ARE PIN WORMS?

 Pinworms magnified

Pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis) are not worms at all.  They are parasites that make their home in the intestine and anal area of humans.  Their survival is made possibly be feeding off their unfortunate host by absorbing nutrients from the host. 

 This rather small, white parasite is referred to commonly as pin worms in both lay and medical terminology as they resemble worms.  You may also hear these parasites called seatworms or threadworms. 

 The actual infection that is caused by pinworms or Enterobius vermicularis has the medical name of enterbiasis or helminthiasis.    

 

 

 

WHO CAN GET PINWORMS?

 

In the United States, the pinworm is the most common worm or helminth infection.  The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate the number of people within The United States to be currently infected with pinworms at approximately 40 million.

 No one is immune to pinworms.  They can infest and infect humans at any age, in any social class, any race, etc and are most prominent in temperate climates.  However, children are most susceptible to becoming infected.  School aged children who are between the ages of 5 and 10 years of age make up the majority of those infected.  Younger children; preschoolers, hold the title for the second highest rate of infection of pinworms.

 Daycares, schools and other institutional settings are notorious for pinworm infections.  Though it may sound extreme and be a bit disgusting to think about, sometimes half the children in these facilities may be infected at any time. 

 Adults are not immune to pinworms and can become infected as well.  Adult family members are less likely to have a pinworm infection; other than mothers of infected children, but anyone has the potential for becoming infected or infested with these parasites.  Adults who are infected also commonly pass eggs to sexual partners.

 

CATS, DOGS AND OTHER ANIMALS AND HUMAN PINWORMS

 animals and pinwormsAnimals and Pinworms

It is a common myth that animals; particularly cats, spread pinworms to humans.  This is not factual. 

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANIMALS TO SPREAD PINWORMS TO HUMANS.  IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HUMANS TO SPREAD PINWORMS TO ANIMALS. 

The family pet or other animal is truly innocent in this case. 

 

WHAT DOES A PINWORM LOOK LIKE?

What Pinworms Look Like



 

Pinworms are small white worms that are fairly easy to see.  Measuring between 2 and 8mm in length, these parasites do not require any magnification to be seen.  The eggs laid by female pinworms are only about 55 micrometers in diameter and are translucent; therefore, they cannot be seen by the naked eye.

 

WHAT CAUSES ITCHING FROM PINWORMS?

 Pinworms Itching

While the infected person sleeps, female pinworms make their way out of the intestines through the anus.  It is in this area that the female pinworms lay their eggs.  This causes irritation and itching around the anus. 

Children scratch the anal area and then the eggs are deposited underneath their fingernails.  The parasitic eggs are then transferred to toys, bedding, clothing and other objects.  This is how the infection is generally spread. 

The transported eggs hatch into larva in the small intestines.  This is where they mature and then mate.  From the small intestines, they make their way to the anal area where the female pinworms lay about 15,000 eggs.  The life cycle continues to repeat itself until the infestation is treated and the body is rid of the parasites.

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PINWORMS?

 Diagnosing Pinworms

How do you know if your child has pinworms?  There are some very common, trademark symptoms that are associated with parasitic infections caused by pinworms.

 

Itching in or around the anal area is the largest symptoms or complaint that one has when they have been infected with pinworms.  Vaginal itching is also a common problem associated with pinwork infestation. 

Some less common symptoms associated with pinworm infestation is nausea, restlessness, insomnia, loss of appetite and irritability.

Unless the infestation is severe, many people never realize that they are infected as no symptoms occur.  As expected, the more severe the infestation, the more present the symptoms associated with pinworms is likely to show up.

 

 

HOW IS PINWORM INFECTIONS DIAGNOSED?

 

If you suspect you or your child may have been infected with pinworms, you should see your general practitioner.  What is commonly referred to as “The Scotch Tape Test” will be performed.  Your doctor will use a section of transparent adhesive tape; sometimes called a pinworm paddle, to detect pinworms and their eggs.  The pinworm paddle is pressed against the anal area where the eggs and sometimes the pinworms become attached to the sticky tape.  The specimen is then examined thoroughly under a microscope.

Several samples are likely to be needed for an accurate diagnosis and testing must be done soon after the suspected infected person wakes up in the morning as taking a shower, bathing or having a bowel movement will generally remove the majority of the eggs and parasites in the anal area.  Fingernail samples may also be used as a tool to diagnose pinworms as an infected individual is likely to scratch the affected area.

Your doctor may advise performing the scotch tape test during the night since these nocturnal parasites are most active during this time.  The transparent adhesive tape method can be used to collect samples from undergarments, the anal area of the body and from bedding.

 

HOW DO I GET RID OF PINWORMS?

 Pinworm Meds

Vermox or mebendazole is a medication that is commonly used to treat pinworms.  Your doctor will give this prescription for pinworm medication in one single pill.  It is sometimes repeated a week or so later if the infection is still present.  At your doctor’s discretion, the medication may be given again three weeks later.  Many doctors use a 9 week regimen of treatment to ensure the infected individual is completely rid of the parasite.

 

Albendazole or Albenza is another medication used in the treatment of pinworms; however, it is not as commonly prescribed as other medications due to side effects.  If prescribed, other medications are usually necessary to reduce inflammation within the central nervous system.

Pyrantel Pamoate is an over-the-counter treatment for pinworms.  This medication is usually marketed under the name of Pin-X or Pin-Rid and can be found in any drugstore within the United States and most other countries.  However, one must directly ask for the medication from the pharmacist on duty as it is almost always necessary to have a confirmed diagnosis from a licensed healthcare provider before purchase.

When pinworms affect the genitals and urinary organs combination therapy is used.  Vermox and Stromectol will treat the worms and a topical medication is given for the necessary reduction of pinworm eggs.

 

ARE PINWORMS DANGEROUS?

 Danger Pinworms

Generally, no.  Most cases of pinworms cause only irritation and itching.  The most common complaints are itching and a rash-like feel in or around the anus.  However, if left untreated pinworms can cause long term health problems.

Pinworms that go untreated for an extended period of time really run the gambit on what issues may occur.  Diarrhea, constipation, malnutrition, bedwetting, vaginal discharge and possible connections between untreated pinworms and appendicitis exist.  Although the link between having pinworms and appendicitis is controversial, studies certainly suggest that those who are infected with pinworms continuously and who do not treat their condition are more likely to have appendicitis.

 

HOW TO PREVENT PINWORMS

 Prevent Pinworms

Proper hygiene helps reduce your and your children’s risk of getting pinworms and or from transmitting it to others if you become infected.  Washing your hands before eating, after using the restroom, after handling diapers or bedding and keeping your hands clean in general is your best defense against pinworms being contracted or spread.

Cleaning under your and your children’s fingernails can help reduce the spread of parasites.

Clothing; especially underwear, should be changed and washed daily to help aid in the prevention and spread of pinworms. 

If one person in a household is known to be infected, they should be treated immediately.  However, treating the known infected person alone isn’t enough.  Every person, including adults, should be treated since the probability of the parasite being transmitted to others in the household is high.  Even if the person known to be infected is treated others may have been infected.  If this is the case, re-infection or infestation will occur.  This is why it is ideal to treat everyone within the household at one time.

 

MYTHS ABOUT PINWORMS

Myths About Pinworms

As mentioned, animals do not transmit pinworms to humans.  This is impossible.

Also, no social class, economic class, race, gender, etc are discriminated upon by pinworms.  ANYONE can become infected.  While proper hygiene can help prevent the spreading of the parasite, becoming infected with pinworms does not mean someone is “nasty” “trashy” or “unclean”.  It is an infection anyone is susceptible to and there should be no shame felt if you or someone you know has become infected.