Disease and Illness

Algoma Public Health


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What is it?

  • An infection caused by tiny, white thread-like worms that live in the intestines.
  • The worms crawl out of the anus at night and lay their eggs on nearby skin.
  • Very common in children.

What are the symptoms?

  • Often there are no symptoms.
  • There may be itching around the anal area.
  • Disturbed sleep and irritability.
  • Worms may be seen in the feces or around the anus.

How quickly do symptoms develop? 

  • 1 to 2 months after ingestion of pinworm eggs.

How is it spread?

  • An infected person scratches the anus, gets pinworm eggs on fingers or under fingernails and touches his mouth or another person’s.
  • An uninfected person picks up pinworm eggs from an infected person’s clothes, toys, bedding, food or surroundings.

How long is it contagious?  

  • As long as eggs are being deposited around the anus.
  • Eggs remain infective off the host in an indoor environment for about 2 weeks.
  • Child may attend school or daycare after first treatment.

How is it diagnosed? 

  • The best way to see if a child has pinworms is to examine the anus for worms two to three hours after the child is asleep. In addition, your healthcare provider may recommend a tape test which involves placing sticky tape on the skin around the anus. The pinworm eggs are picked up by the tape and are identified under a microscope.

How is it treated? 

  • With medication, prescribed by a physician.
  • Repeat treatment after 2 weeks.
  • Check with doctor if whole family should be treated.
  • Wash the bedding and underwear of infected persons in hot water and change daily for several days after treatment (avoid shaking the eggs into the air).
  • Clean/vacuum sleeping and living areas for several days after treatment.
  • Infected people should shower every morning and thoroughly wash the anal area as this removes a large amount of the eggs.

What can you do? 

  • Watch your child for signs of infection.
  • Encourage careful handwashing especially after using the toilet and before preparing food or eating. Have soap readily available.
  • Discourage scratching bare anal area and nail biting. Keep nails short.

Whom should I talk to if I have any questions? 

You can call Infectious Diseases at Algoma Public Health at 705-942-4646 or your health care provider.  

Date of Creation:  June 1, 2015

Last Modified:       February 5, 2019