What is Pinworm Infection?
Pinworm infection is the most common kind of intestinal worm infection in the United States and one of the most common worldwide. Pinworms are slim and white, measuring about 1/4 to 1/2 inches (about 6 to 13 millimeters) in length.
While the infected person sleeps, female pinworms lay thousands of eggs in the folds of skin encircling the anus. Most people infected with pinworms do not have any symptoms, but some people have rectal itching and restless sleep.
Pinworm infection happens most usually in school-age children, and the tiny (microscopic) eggs are easily spread from child to child. Treatment includes oral drugs that kill pinworms and thorough washing of pajamas, bedding, and underwear. For best results, the whole family should be treated.
Pinworm Infection Symptoms
Symptoms of pinworm infection might include:
Itching of the rectal or vaginal region
Insomnia, irritability, teeth grinding, and restlessness
Occasional stomach pain and nausea
Pinworms usually cause no symptoms.
When should you see a doctor?
Consult your doctor if you have severe rectal itching, particularly at night.
Pinworm Infection Causes
Accidentally swallowing or breathing in pinworm eggs leads to a pinworm infection. The tiny (microscopic) eggs could be carried to your mouth by contaminated food, drink, or your fingers. Once swallowed, the eggs hatch in the intestines and mature into adult worms within several weeks.
Female pinworms move to the rectal region to lay their eggs, which usually results in rectal itching. When you scratch the itchy region, the eggs cling to your fingers and get under your fingernails. The eggs then get transferred to other surfaces, like toys, bedding, or toilet seats. The eggs could also be transferred from contaminated fingers to food, liquids, clothes, or other people.
Pinworm eggs could survive for two to three weeks on surfaces.
Pinworm Infection Risk Factors
Risk factors for pinworm infection include:
Being young - Pinworm infections are most likely to happen in children ages 5 to 10. The tiny (microscopic) eggs are easily passed on to family members, caregivers, or other children in schools or child care centers. Pinworm infections are unusual in children younger than age 2.
Living in crowded spaces - People who live in institutions are at greater risk of developing pinworm infections.