A pinworm is a white, very thin worm about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long that moves. If it doesn't wiggle, it's probably lint or a thread. Pinworms usually are seen in the anal and buttock area, especially at night or early in the morning. Sometimes a pinworm is found on the surface of a bowel movement. More than 10% of children have pinworms. They do not cause any serious health problems. However, they can cause much itching and irritation of the anal area and bottom.
If your child has itching or irritation of the anal area, he could have pinworms. Keep in mind that many get itching in this area just from washing the area too often or vigorously with soap.
Check your child for pinworms as follows: First, look for a 1/4 to 1/2-inch, white, threadlike worm that moves. Examine the area around the anus using a flashlight. Do this a few hours after your child goes to bed and first thing in the morning for 2 nights in a row. If no pinworm is seen, do a Scotch tape test for pinworm eggs.
Instructions for Scotch tape test
Your provider will call you to give you the results. If pinworm eggs are seen on the slides, your child's provider will prescribe medicine.
If you have definitely seen a pinworm, your child needs to be treated. Your health care provider will recommend a pinworm medicine by mouth. You can buy a nonprescription medicine that contains pyrantel pamoate (such as Reese's Pinworm Medicine). If given once and then repeated in 2 weeks, the cure rate is about 95%.
Children are usually infected by children outside the family. If anyone else in your family has itching and irritation in the anal area, or anyone sleeps with your child, call your healthcare provider during office hours for instructions. If any of your child's friends have similar symptoms, be sure to tell their parents to get them tested. Dogs and cats do not carry pinworms. Those in the home who do not have symptoms generally do not need to be treated unless repeated infections occur.
If your child has been around a child who has pinworms but has no symptoms, your child probably won't get them. Pinworms are harmless and are never present very long without causing some anal itching. If you want to be sure your child doesn't have pinworms, wait at least a month. A swallowed egg will not mature into an adult pinworm for 3 to 4 weeks. Then contact your provider about doing a Scotch tape test for pinworm eggs.
Infection is caused by swallowing pinworm eggs. Your child can get pinworms no matter how carefully you keep your child and your house clean. The following hygiene measures, however, can help to reduce the chances of reinfection of your child or new infections in other people.
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