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How to Prevent Childhood Infections

Preventing Pinworms

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Encourage good personal hygiene habits in your children to ward off pinworm infestations.

Pinworms (Enterobius vermicularis) are small white worms that live in a host's rectum. The hardest part of treating pinworms may be actually finding them. After that, they are easily dispensed with a little medication.

Pinworms Infection Information

Pinworm infections are the most common type of roundworm (parasitic worms) infections in the United States, but they are easily treated. These parasites are easy to acquire -- people most often pick them up by unknowingly ingesting pinworm eggs.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pinworm eggs can survive on inanimate surfaces for up to two weeks. The eggs get into the body when someone picks them up from infested surfaces, such as toilets, bath fixtures, countertops, clothing, food, toys, and drinking glasses or utensils, and then touches his or her mouth. After a few weeks, mature female worms move from the intestine to the area around the anus where they lay their eggs.

Pinworm-infection symptoms include difficulty sleeping, frequent wiggling or irritability, and an itchy bottom. The persistent itching is caused by the female pinworm when she comes out of the rectum to lay eggs around the child's anus. When the child scratches the itchy area, the minuscule eggs can get under fingernails and are then easily spread around a home, school, or play area. In rare instances, adults have become infected as they remove or shake bed linens and inhale the eggs.

If you suspect a pinworm infection, look for the little parasites at night, when they lay their eggs. You can sometimes see the worms, which are typically a half-inch long or smaller, around the child's anus or in the bowel movements.

Pinworms can be treated with mebendazole (Vermox), which is packaged in chewable tablets. The tablets are given in two doses two weeks apart. Other medicines, such as pyrantel (Pin-X, Ascarel), are available in liquid or capsule form and are also taken in two doses, two weeks apart.

Who's at Risk for Pinworms?

People of any age are at risk, but school-age children and preschool-age children are most susceptible to pinworm infections.

Defensive Measures Against Pinworms

To prevent the spread of pinworms, everyone in a household where someone is infected should be treated with pinworm medicine. In addition, pinworm prevention should include:

  • Washing hands before a meal and after using the bathroom
  • Washing hands after changing diapers or helping toddlers wipe after bowel movements
  • Keeping fingernails short and trimming them often
  • Discouraging nail-biting
  • Refraining from scratching the anal area
  • Changing into clean, freshly washed underwear each day

If you do get infected, you should use freshly laundered bedclothes and bedding each night; bathe each morning to reduce egg contamination; and open bedroom curtains, blinds, and windows during the day because pinworm eggs are sensitive to sunlight.Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes red blotches on the skin -- an antifungal cream can be used to treat most cases. Go to the next page to learn more about this skin infection. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.