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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Threadworms (pinworms) are very common in children, but rare in adults. They are a parasite that passes from feces to hands to mouth and is incredibly contagious. This infection causes intense itching around the anus and sometimes the vagina, especially at night – the need to scratch may even disturb your child's sleep. You might notice tiny white worms around your child's anus when they are active at night, laying eggs, or mixed in their poop.

Are threadworms contagious?

Threadworms are very contagious, passing from bottom to hands or clothes to mouth, so it's important to get prompt treatment and re-treat two-three weeks later. Follow simple hygiene: wash hands and nails regularly, keep fingernails short, and rinse the toothbrush before use.

Children should wear underwear at night and wash it in the morning, and bed linen, towels, nightclothes, and soft toys should be washed on a high heat cycle after treatment.

Everyone in the household should be treated, even if they have no symptoms.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

You should try to avoid scratching and keep fingernails short - avoid tights, synthetic materials, or other underwear that can cause sweating, and make sure you pat the area dry after bathing. Products from your pharmacy can be used to help soothe and cool the area (such as aloe vera gel or menthol creams, or ointments or creams containing bismuth subgallate or zinc oxide).

Treatment with products containing mebendazole 100 mg, such as Vermox chewable tablets, are available by prescription, and are licensed for use in adults and children in combination with simple hygiene measures. A single dose is taken by all members of the family aged over 1 year. A second dose to avoid re-infection should be taken after two-three weeks.

For children aged 12 months and under, treatment is with hygiene measures alone for six weeks.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women are recommended to use hygiene measures only for six weeks, as treatment with mebendazole should be avoided.

When should I see my doctor?

If it seems like threadworms, see your doctor.

If you are unsure of the diagnosis, or itchiness has persisted despite treatment and re-treatment 2 weeks later, book an appointment with your doctor. Similarly, if the itch is present elsewhere, your child develops a rash, or you have other specific concerns, do see your doctor.

Should my child stay off school with threadworms?

Children do not need to stay off school with threadworms.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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