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Pinworm infections are the most common type of human intestinal worm infection. Pinworms are thin, white worms that measure about ¼ to ½ inches in length. Once a person has been infected by pinworms, the female worm will lay thousands of eggs in the skin surrounding the anus.
- Anal itching or discomfort
- Restless sleep (caused by itching symptoms)
- Pain or irritation around the skin of the anus
- Stomach pain or nausea
- Irritability and restlessness caused by itching
A pinworm infection is spread by ingesting or inhaling the eggs of a pinworm. Eggs are commonly found in contaminated water or food. Once they are ingested, the eggs hatch into larvae and adult worms in the intestines of an infected individual. From there, female worms will move to the anus to lay eggs. When an infected person scratches this skin, the microscopic pinworm eggs can stick to the fingers and lodge under fingernails. They can then be deposited onto food and surfaces, where they may infect others. Eggs may also stick to items of clothing. An individual who wears or handles this infected clothing may accidentally inhale or ingest the eggs living on the garment. Because eggs are able to survive for 2-3 weeks, pinworm infections are extremely contagious.
Pinworms live for about 13 weeks, however, reinfection is common as deposited eggs are re-ingested and the hatching process starts over again. These infections are most common in adults who live in crowded spaces and young children in daycare or school. Children who suck their thumb are at an increased risk, due to fingers being put in the mouth without proper cleaning. Humans are the only carriers of pinworms. You cannot get a pinworm infection from domesticated animals such as dogs or cats.
Below is a list of common treatment options for pinworms. During your appointment, discuss these with your doctor to determine the right treatment plan for you.