Pinworms, also known as thread worms or butt worms, are human intestinal parasites. Adult male pinworms are 1 - 4 mm in length and female pinworms 8 - 13 mm. These parasites get their name from their long pin-shaped posteriors. The pinworms that infest humans are clinically known as Enterobius vermicularis. The infection is known to be mild but the most annoying one when in children. It is more of a nuisance than being a serious health disorder. School-age children, and preschoolers are the most vulnerable to pinworms.
Pinworm infection is highly contagious and spreads from child to child. Pinworm eggs can survive on the surface of clothes, bedding and toys for about 2 - 3 weeks. This time is enough for the eggs to be transmitted and enter a child's body. Once ingested, the eggs live in the upper intestine until they hatch. Once the female worms mature in the colon, they move down to the anal area and lay thousands of eggs. This happens usually at night and that is when a severe itching sensation develops. Due to scratching, the eggs can get under the fingernails. In this way, the eggs are transmitted to other members of the family as well. Little toddlers who suck their thumbs are more prone to contracting the infection.
Children with pinworms usually show symptoms such as intense itching sensation around the anal and vaginal areas. Other symptoms include loss of appetite or weight loss and insomnia. The patient tends to become irritable and more restless than ever. Vaginal discharge, abdominal pain, itchy rectum are other common symptoms that may show up due to the infection. In severe cases, inflammation of the vermiform appendix may occur due to the pinworms blocking the appendix.
# Doctors usually prescribe a dose of Mebendazole (Vermox) or Pyrantel Pamoate (Antiminth, Combantrin). This is followed by a second dose, normally two weeks later. If the infection has spread to the urinary and genital organs, a combination therapy is required. This therapy includes Mebendazole and Ivermectin (Stromectol) for the pinworms. For the eggs, topical therapy is recommended.
# Apart from the patient, everyone else in the house is treated with anti-worm drugs. This is done to prevent the spread of infection. Soothing anti-itching ointments or creams are also available to reduce itching. Small children usually cannot bear the rectal pain due to the infection. In such cases, they may be given a sitz bath. In this type of bath, the pelvic region is immersed in lukewarm water.
# To prevent further infection and to ensure that the pinworm eggs do not spread further, proper hygiene has to be maintained. It is best if all bedding, clothing, toys, etc., are machine-washed in hot water. This would kill all the eggs that might have survived the treatment. Toilet seats must be cleaned daily, and fingernails have to be kept short and clean. The most basic and important healthy habit of all is to wash hands properly before meals and after using the toilet.
# Scrubbing of countertops, floors and other surfaces that the infected child touches is necessary to keep the infection from spreading further. Carpets should also be properly vacuumed. During treatment, it is advisable for the kids to wear closed sleeping garments. Snug inner-wear is also preferable. This would prevent hand contact and contamination.
How to Detect Pinworm Infection?
The 'tape test' is an effective way to diagnose your child if he/she is showing symptoms of pinworm infection. You can carry out the test when your child wakes up in the morning and just before he/she uses the bathroom or takes a bath. A piece of clear tape can be patted on the skin round the anus. Thereafter, the tape can be taken to the doctor for examination. The doctor can then check if there is any possibility of pinworms or eggs in your child.
Although the ailment is easily treatable, their symptoms are the most annoying for the little ones. Healthy hygiene is the key to prevent such infections. Get your child treated by a doctor as early as possible, once the symptoms start emerging. Maintain cleanliness in your house and outdoors too. Educate your kids to keep their hands clean, and avoid touching their mouth often. Hygienic living has always been an effective tool to prevent even the deadliest of diseases. So mild medical disorders such as pinworm infections can easily be kept at bay.