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Treating threadworm

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Threadworms (also known as pinworms) are parasitic infections that look like a thin thread, hence their name. They are found to grow in human and animal guts. Threadworms are the most common parasitic worm in the US, and the most commonly affected groups are children and household contacts of infected children. Threadworms lay eggs around your bottom (anus), which makes it itchy. As well as some suspicious symptoms, it is possible to see threadworms occasionally in your child’s poop. They are pale white moving worms and can be seen quite clearly if you look for them.

They are so infectious because the worm’s eggs take around 2 weeks to hatch. The eggs can then get stuck on your child’s fingers when the area is scratched. They can then pass on to anything they touch, including clothes, pets, tables, toys, etc. The eggs are ingested by hand-to-mouth transfer after touching a surface with the eggs or scratching your bottom. Because of this and the time lag with the eggs hatching – repeated treatments are commonly needed.

Who should avoid starting threadworm treatment?

For pregnant or breastfeeding women, medical treatment is not usually recommended. The recommended treatment choice is hand washing and hygiene measures for 6 weeks. Treatment is sometimes considered in the first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy but should be avoided throughout the rest of the pregnancy and breastfeeding period.

For children aged 6 months and under, similar hygiene measures alone for 6 weeks are recommended, as there is a risk of side effects from the medications.

Healthwords pharmacists top tips

If you or someone in your house has symptoms of threadworms, you should ensure everyone washes their hands and cleans under the fingernails, particularly before eating, after going to the bathroom or changing diapers.

It is important to keep fingernails short as the eggs sit in the bed of the nail.

Wash sleepwear, sheets, towels and soft toys at a high temperature if there is a suspected case. Also disinfect kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

If your children sleep without underwear, it is recommended to wear underwear to reduce the spread of the eggs.

When to see your doctor?

If you suspect that you or someone in your household may have threadworm, you should visit your doctor. You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you think your child has threadworms and they're under 2 years old. In these circumstances, treatments can differ. It is also important to go see your doctor if the threadworm infestation is severe or persistent (even after initial treatment), especially if it is causing severe symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, skin infection around the anus, insomnia, or bedwetting.

Help from the pharmacy

If you or your child has threadworms, everyone in your household will need to be treated, as there's a high risk of the infection spreading and reinfection. Your doctor can prescribe medication for children aged 2 years or older. Commonly, treatment involves taking a single dose of the anti-parasitic medication mebendazole, which kills the threadworms. If necessary, another dose can be taken after 2 weeks. Continue to follow our general hygiene tips found in the pharmacist advice section for at least 2 weeks after treatment to reduce the chance of reinfection.

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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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