Learning your child has pinworms is often a horrifying experience, but fortunately it is a fairly harmless condition. It can cause rectal itching, and in girls, sometimes vaginal itching and/or discharge.
Pinworms are spread easily from one child to another by the transfer of eggs. Often an infected child scratches himself, picking up an egg, and then transfers it to a toy or toilet seat where another child unknowingly picks up the egg and later transfers it to his mouth. The eggs are swallowed, later hatch, and the pinworm makes its way to the anus to again deposit its eggs. Pinworms usually present with itching around your child’s anus at night. Girls may also have vaginal itching. If you take a look at the skin around the anus you may see the adult worms which are whitish gray and threadlike, measuring about 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch (0.63–1.27 cm) long.
Pinworms can be treated easily with an oral over the counter drug (generic name is Pyrantal, but can be found under the name of Pin-X– a chewable, or Reese’s Pinworm Medicine, a liquid), taken in a single dose and then repeated in one to two weeks. This medication causes the mature pinworms to be expelled through bowel movements. We recommend treating other family members, as well, since one may be a carrier without having any symptoms. Talk to us prior to using any medication under the age of two. Also, when the infection is resolved, the child’s underclothes, bedclothes, and sheets should be washed carefully to reduce the risk of reinfection.
It is very difficult to prevent pinworms, but here are some hints that might be helpful.
- Encourage your child to wash her hands after using the bathroom.
- Try to keep your child from frequently placing their hands in their mouth.
- Encourage your child to wash her hands after playing with a house cat or dog, since these pets can carry the eggs in their fur.