Pinworm Infection

What is a Pinworm Infection?

A Pinworm Infection is a common type of intestinal worm infection. When a person has this infection, they have live pinworms living and laying eggs (i.e. reproducing) in their intestines. In the United States, pinworm infections are by far the most common intestinal worm infections. Because the eggs of pinworms can easily get on hands or under fingernails, this is also a highly contagious type of infection.

Children are more prone than adults to such infections. This may have to do with the fact that they are still developing proper hygiene habits and also that they tend to touch more objects around the home without washing their hands.

However, anyone can develop a pinworm infection. Food or drink may be contaminated and it is possible to breathe in pinworm eggs or swallow them. They can easily be transmitted between members of the same household or in a school environment.

What are the Symptoms of a Pinworm Infection?

Because female pinworms tend to move to the anal area to lay their eggs, many people experience anal itching more than any other symptoms of a pinworm infection. This itching can also include a rash and discomfort in the anal or vaginal area as the pinworms and eggs can cause significant irritation.

Insomnia can also be a major issue for a person with a pinworm infection as the irritation and itching can keep that person awake at night. Abdominal pain and nausea can also occur. Sometimes, the pinworms can also be visible in the anus as well as in the stool.

Pinworm Infection Causes

Swallowing or inhaling pinworm eggs causes a pinworm infection. These eggs are found in contaminated hands, food, or drink. Once in the stomach, the eggs remain intact until they hatch and mature into adults.

The female adult pinworms shift to the colon and later to the anal area to lay eggs. This process often causes anal itching and irritation. Once a person scratches this area, the eggs cling under their fingernails where they can stay for several hours. The eggs are then transferred onto other surfaces in the household. The eggs can contaminate food, drink, and clothes of uninfected people.

The eggs can survive on surfaces for about three weeks while waiting for a host to pick them up. Children are more likely to get infected than adults because they are more likely to put the contaminated objects into their mouths. Adults, on the other hand, can inhale the eggs when shaking towels and bedding that are contaminated.

How is a Pinworm Infection Treated?

A pinworm infection is easily treatable with medication and improved, vigilant hygiene. There are over-the-counter and prescription medications that are effective anti-parasitic, meaning they kill both live pinworms and eggs and rid a person of the infection.

Sometimes, a person will need two rounds of treatment to get rid of all of the pinworms and eggs. Hygiene is also important and thoroughly cleaning all bed linens and clothing in hot water and drying anything that can be put in the dryer on high heat can help to kill any and all pinworm eggs that may have been transferred there.

Pinworm Infection Prevention

  • Pinworm eggs can remain dormant for three weeks before finding a host. Therefore, apart from the regular cleaning of the house, it is imperative to include steps that will prevent reinfection.
  • Always schedule showers in the morning. Pinworms lay eggs at night. Washing the anal area in the morning can reduce the number of pinworms in the body.
  • Avoid scratching. One may feel the urge to scratch the anal area where the eggs are deposited. Maintaining short fingernails coupled with avoidance of nail biting can significantly prevent the spread or occurrence of pinworm infections.
  • Change bed sheets and underwear daily. Practicing this initiative reduces the risk of further spreading pinworm eggs.
  • Conduct hot water laundry. Things such as underwear, towels, bed sheets, and sleeping clothes should be washed using hot water to kill them. Later, one should proceed to iron them on high heat.
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Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
June 13, 2018