NHS Worms Information
Patient information leaflet: worms
Threadworms, also known as pinworms, are the most common worm contracted by humans in the UK.
Threadworm infection is common in children. Threadworms look like pieces of white cotton and measure 5-10mm long, and may be found on the outside of a bowel motion or around the anus. They are easily treated with pharmacy medicines.
Infection is not a sign of uncleanliness, and threadworms are not caught from pets - animals carry different types of worms and the chances of children catching these are remote.
When threadworm eggs are swallowed, they hatch as threadworms in the gut and later move to lay eggs on the affected child or adult’s bottom, usually at night. Eggs can survive a few days or even weeks. If children scratch their bottom, the eggs can get under their fingernails, and the eggs can then be transferred to contaminate objects or other people and be swallowed, starting the cycle again.
Symptoms of threadworm infection include:
- in children, itchy skin around the bottom, especially at night
- in adults, itchy skin may be a sign of dermatitis
- loss of appetite
- tiredness from disturbed sleep
- teeth grinding
- bed-wettingParents who are concerned their children may have threadworms can check them for signs after they go to the toilet or at night. Rarely, people may contract roundworm, tapeworm or hookworm, and nearly always during a trip abroad. These types of worm infections are usually diagnosed by a doctor and treated with prescription medicines.A pharmacist of other medical professional should be consulted if:
- When to see a pharmacist or other medical professional
- Sometimes there may be no symptoms.
- threadworm infection is suspected in a child under two years old
- the patient has you have recently returned from travelling overseas, especially Africa or Asia
- there is blood in the faeces (stool)
- there is also diarrhoea
- there has been rapid weight loss
- skin in the anal area is broken from scratching
- treatment does not work or the worms keep coming back
- the patient is pregnant or breastfeeding, as some medicines may not be suitable
- the patient has other medical conditions or take other medicines
- the patient has allergies to any medicinesTreat all the family, even if some family members don’t have symptoms. While treating worms have a shower at night and again the next morning to remove any eggs.Vacuum carpets and furniture to remove eggs.
- Take care to prevent reinfection by:
- Undress children in the shower so that eggs are washed away. Wash bed linen and towels in hot water, separately to other washing, and wash bed linen daily until the worms have been eradicated.
- Treatment tips
- washing hands thoroughly before eating food and after using the toilet
- scrubbing underneath fingernails and keeping them short, so eggs do not lodge under them
- having a morning bath/shower daily to help wash any eggs away
- disinfecting the toilet seat daily in the week following treatment for worms
- encouraging children not to scratch, suck their thumb or bite their nails
- if children scratch themselves in their sleep it may be necessary for them to wear cotton mitts and tight-fitting underpants at night so the eggs don’t transfer to their fingernails and mouthThreadworm treatments are available as chewable tablets, suspensions (liquids) or a powder. There are two main types of anti-worm medicines, mebendazole and piperazine.
- More information
- Treatment options
NHS Choices www.nhs.uk/conditions/threadworms