There are far too many blogs on WonderBaba which start with the sentence…this is disgusting but…
Well here is another one anyway!
This is disgusting but… threadworms are small, white, parasitic worms which are otherwise known as pinworms or Enterobium vermicularis. They are the most common worm parasite which affects children. In fact it is thought that up to 40% of all children under ten years of age may be infected with threadworms. Males (2-5mm) are smaller than females (8-13mm long). They resemble a thread or a pin which is where they get their name – in fact it’s been said that the female threadworms are about the size of a staple but I guess that’s not as catchy!
Signs and symptoms
Threadworms can be present without causing any signs or symptoms so it is important not to assume that you are infection free just because you are not suffering with some of the following:
- Itching around the anus, especially at night.
- Itching around the vagina for girls.
- Irritability from disturbed sleep due to itching.
- In severe cases, weight loss, lack of appetite and continued sleep problems.
- Threadworms (but not the eggs) can be spotted in underwear, PJ’s, on sheets and in faeces. The best time to check underwear is about 2-3 hours after your child has gone to sleep – so if you lift for toilet at night this would be an ideal opportunity!
The info you don’t want to know but need to!!
I could just tell you how to treat them but to be honest I think its best to understand how they live and survive so that you can manage an infection more effectively! So here it is…the life cycle of a threadworm!
- The male and female threadworm live in the intestine of the infected person. The female comes out of the intestine to lay her eggs (1000’s of them!) in the area surrounding the anus. The vaginal area is also affected in girls. This usually happens at night. The men stay where they are and leave the women to it – I could say a lot more about that but to be fair my hubbie is minding the kids so that I have time to type this!
- The female excretes mucus which causes irritation and itching in the area.
- The infected person itches due to the mucus and eggs get stuck on the fingertips and under the fingernails.
- The infected person then touches other surfaces, clothing or people and the eggs are transferred. Eggs can also become airborne as they are so small so may transfer onto other surfaces if moved – by changing bed sheets/shaking out a towel etc.
- Eggs can live for up to three weeks on a surface and so can be caught up to three weeks after the transfer occurred.
- Once someone else makes contact with the eggs they are at risk of swallowing them. If swallowed they hatch in the large intestine. If the eggs hatch around the anal area they can re-enter the intestine.
- Threadworms can live up to six weeks.
- They continue this behaviour for survival.
Some people think that you must be dirty to pass threadworms on – this isn’t the case – its actually quite hard to stop the cycle described above as they have so much opportunity to re-infect. This is why the risk of transmission between family members is as high as 75%!! I’m sure you can understand why an intensive hygiene strategy is essential when treating threadworms. I will now describe the best ways to ensure the best possible approach is taken to eradicate infection.
There are two steps to treating threadworms. The first is using medication to kill the adult threadworms when appropriate, and the second is adopting an intensive hygiene strategy toget rid of the eggs.
- The entire household should be treated at the one time unless there is a reason you can’t take the medication. The medication available in Ireland over the counter is called Vermox. It works by inhibiting the threadworms absorption of glucose which causes their death. Read the Vermox leaflet to learn more :
- Speak to your GP if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or you are treating a child under two years of age.
Intenstive Hygiene Strategy
Adopt the following techniques for six weeks to interupt the lifecycle of the threadworm and to get rid of the infection. This is so important because the medication only kills the adult threadworms – it does not kill the eggs. Re-infestation is likely if the following methods are not used.
- Wash all sleepwear, bed linen, towels and teddies when first diagnosed. There is no need for a boil wash – just normal temperature – just make sure there is a good rinse cycle.
- Hoover as much as you can – especially the bedrooms – I would hoover the couch if its fabric!
- Dust as much as you can – to remove eggs from surfaces.
- Use a hot damp cloth daily on the bathroom and kitchen surfaces.
- Don’t let the kids eat in the bedroom.
- Cut everyones nails short to reduce the chance of eggs getting lodged under them.
- Discourage nail biting and finger sucking (good luck..!)
- Wear close fitting underwear at night and use cotton gloves to prevent scratching.
- Avoid shaking towels, bed linen etc
- Wash your child every morning – so swap to a morning wash if you usually only bathe them in the evening and increase the frequency if you normally only bathe them a couple of times a week. This is important as you wash the eggs away from the anus etc.
- Don’t share towels between family members.
- Try not to let the kids play with their toothbrush – keep them out of reach and just bring them down when they have washed their hands and are ready to start brushing!
- Clean all childrens toys and kitchen utensils.
- Dogs get a bad rep when it comes to threadworms but actually humans are the only known hosts – so your dog cannot spread threadworms other than being another potential ‘surface’ on which eggs could rest!
Its a full time job!! Obviously parents need to be extremely vigilant themselves about hand washing, particularly around meal preparation and nappy changing times.
It is not necessary to keep a child with an infection off school – the school should practice good hygiene methods to help prevent infection from spreading.
When to see the doctor
Visit your GP if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or treating a child under two years of age. You should also visit the doctor if you have not successfully treated the infection yourself using the above techniques. Ensure to read the patient information leaflet of Vermox thoroughly before us to ensure it is safe for you to take. Vermox can be bought without a prescription from any community pharmacy – but do come visit is in Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy as we are really lovely people 😉
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!
References – HSE, NHS, Product SPC.