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Does your child have pinworms? Do you?

Pinworms are a common intestinal parasite found in people of all ages and social standings

Public domain photo CDC

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis ) is a common parasitic infection in people of all ages. It is often more prevalent in children–largely due to the close-quarters of daycare centers and schools–but is a cause for concern in institutions and households with a history of previous infection. Also known as seatworm and thread worm, pinworms are classified into a larger group of parasites known as roundworms.

What are the symptoms of pinworm infection? The characteristic symptom is itching around the anus, and this is often the only symptom. Some children, according to WebMD, experience such severe discomfort they can become sleep deprived, stressed, depressed, and anxious. Complications with the condition are rare, but skin infections from scratching can occur. This problematic itching stems from the female pinworm, which crawls out of the anus at night and lays eggs on the skin around the rectum.

How are pinworms transmitted? Because people with an itch usually scratch it, pinworm eggs manage to get on fingers and under fingernails. The exterior of the eggs are moist and sticky, promoting adhesion to most surfaces. Clothes, countertops, toilets, bed sheets, and toys are all possible places to encounter pinworm eggs.  It only takes one egg—which is not visible by the naked eye—to be ingested for a child or adult to become infected.  From the mouth the pinworm egg travels into the small intestine. Once there the eggs hatch and larvae will go through two molts before they are considered adults.  The average life span is 7 weeks, though females live considerably longer than males, up to 13 weeks.

How do you get rid of pinworms? Thankfully, pinworms are easily dealt with through over-the-counter medications containing Pyrantel pamoate.  Stronger, prescription-grade medications are available for severe infections or for individuals having issues with reinfection. If one person in the household has the parasite, doctors recommend all people in that home receive treatment at the same time. Current medications on the market won’t kill pinworm eggs; a 2- to 6-dose medication regime is needed to kill the parasite and break the lifecycle.

The CDC also places and emphasis on the importance of hand washing  to prevent the spread and reinfection of pinworm.

For more information, visit the CDC website:  Center for Disease Control