Pinworms (also known as thread worms) live in human intestines. A small, white, and round worm, it is a parasite that lives in the colon of infected people (known as the host) and they look like short pieces of white cotton thread when seen. Due to the extremely contagious nature of pinworms, however, it is generally recommended that an infested individual seek medical treatment to rid themselves of the parasite faster. Read on to learn how to get rid of pinworms.
Home Remedies for Pinworms
Clean your clothes and bedding. Pinworm eggs can get on your clothes and bedding, especially as you sleep, which makes it vital that you wash these items in hot water and laundry detergent on an almost daily basis.
- Underwear, pajamas, pants, and towels should be washed daily for the duration of the infestation. Bedding should also be washed daily unless an anti-parasite medication is taken, at which point it only needs to be washed on the first day of treatment and every three days or so after that.
- Do not fan the bedding. Fanning sheets and blankets as you change them can send pinworm eggs into the air, causing them to contaminate other surfaces and people.
- Dry all items in a heated dryer. Heat is more effective at killing pinworms than other methods of drying.
Wash your hands frequently. Pinworm infestations are highly contagious, so immense cleanliness is required to prevent the infestation from becoming more severe or spreading to others.
- If you passed the parasite to someone else, it is possible to become re-infested from that person even after you rid yourself of the worm.
- Washing with soap and water can help remove pinworm eggs that get stuck to your hands after wiping yourself in the restroom.
- Wash your hands after every bathroom trip, before eating, and before preparing food. Scrub your hands and fingernails for a full minute at minimum with each washing.
Scrub any potentially contaminated surfaces. The bathroom should be thoroughly cleansed during the infestation.
- Toilet seats should be cleaned daily with toilet bowl cleaner.
- Counters and other surfaces should be cleaned at least once or twice a week.
Bathe daily. Take a hot shower at least once a day while the infestation continues. Use body wash or soap as you bathe as opposed to merely rinsing yourself with water.
- Pay special attention to the skin around the anus so that you scrub away any pinworm eggs.
- Showering in the morning may allow you to get rid of more pinworm eggs than showering at night.
- Showers are better than baths because they reduce the risk of spreading pinworm eggs to other parts of your body. Pinworm eggs that are washed off into bath water can find their way to your mouth or other areas of the body and cause complications.
Add probiotics to your diet. Eat probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt, or take probiotic capsules.
- Probiotics stimulate healthy bacteria in your digestive system, creating an unwelcoming environment for pinworms in the process.
- Adding 1 cup (250 ml) of yogurt to your daily diet or taking two capsules of probiotic supplements per day should add a significant amount of probiotics to your digestive system.
- Always follow label instructions when purchasing and using probiotic supplements.
Stop scratching. Even though pinworms usually cause immense itching, you should avoid scratching the anus area as much as possible.
- Scratching infested areas may cause the pinworm eggs to get trapped under your nails. When this happens, you are more likely to complicate your own infestation or pass it to someone else.
- Cut your nails short. This way, even if you do scratch on accident, it is less likely that the pinworm eggs will get lodged beneath the nail.
- Wear gloves at night to prevent yourself from scratching in your sleep.
Reduce your sugar intake. Minimize the amount of starchy or sugar-rich products you consume, especially those with high amounts of glucose.
- Pinworms consume sugar to produce energy. The more sugar these parasites have available to them, the stronger they will be and the faster they will breed. By cutting out as much sugar as possible, you can effectively starve them to death.
Eat more garlic. Garlic is like poison to pinworms. High garlic intake will quickly and efficiently remove pinworms from the body. Use a generous amount of garlic when cooking daily meals, if possible. Otherwise, create a garlic mixture that can be taken two to three times a day for several weeks. Mash two garlic cloves together with a teaspoon of honey. Not only will this mixture rid the body of pinworms, it is also an effective way to prevent further infection. Continue eating a dose of garlic mixture every other week to promote pinworm prevention.
Medical Treatments for Pinworms
Ask your doctor for a prescription anti-parasite medication. Individuals experiencing extreme discomfort or those with moderate to severe pinworm infestation are often treated with a potent anti-parasite medication that wipes out adult pinworms within a week.
- The two most common anti-parasite medications used to treat pinworm infestations are albendazole and mebendazole. Both of these drugs belong to a class of medicines called anthelmintics. They prevent worms from absorbing sugar, thereby causing them to lose energy and die.
- These drugs may cause mild gastrointestinal upset, including stomach pain and nausea. More severe side effects include sore throat, fever, unusual bleeding or bruising, shortness of breath, and fatigue. If any unusual side effects appear, stop use and contact your doctor.
- Your doctor may advise against these prescription treatments for patients who are pregnant or under the age of 2 years.
Request anti-itch cream. Ask your doctor for his or her recommendation on an anti-itch cream safe for use near the anus. You may receive an over-the-counter or prescription cream.
- Even though the anti-parasite medication will be enough to kill the pinworms, you may still experience itching after the initial round of medication. This can be both uncomfortable and problematic, since eggs may remain in the system even after all matured pinworms have died off. Scratching can spread these eggs, making the matter worse.
Purchase an over-the-counter pinworm medicine. Look for an oral medication containing pyrantel pamoate.
- This anthelmintic agent paralyzes the nervous system of pinworms, forcing them to pass through the system in one’s stool.
- Follow label instructions to determine the dosing amount and frequency. Typically, though, only one dose is required.
Prepare to take a repeat treatment. Your doctor may recommend taking a second round of medication two weeks after the conclusion of the first round.
- Pinworm symptoms may fade or disappear within the first week of treatment, but these medications only kill adult worms. A second round or “repeat” treatment kills any pinworms that hatch from eggs that were not destroyed by the initial treatment.
How to Prevent Pinworms
Be aware of which people are most at risk of getting a pinworm infection (enterobiasis). As noted, children tend to be infected more often but the ease with which they can be passed from person to person means that anyone is potentially able to be infected. Those most likely to be infected include:
- School- and preschool-aged children.
- People who are institutionalized.
- Family or household members and caregivers of people with a pinworm infection.
Understand the life cycle and transmission vector (how the parasites grow and are spread from host to host). Pinworm eggs hatch in the host small intestine. When grown, they travel to the rectum to lay eggs, and the “glue” that adheres the eggs to the anus is what triggers the skin’s itching sensation. When someone scratches the itchy area, microscopic pinworm eggs are transferred to their fingers. Contaminated fingers can then carry pinworm eggs to the mouth, where they are either passed hand to mouth or to various surfaces, where they can live for 2 to 3 weeks and be picked up by others.
Be alert for signs of irritation in the rectal area. Often, someone can have a pinworm infection without having any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they are likely to be:
- Itching around the rectum (bottom) – the itching is usually worse at night, and is caused by the worms migrating to the area around the rectum to lay their eggs.
- Restlessness, poor sleep.
- Irritability (such as teeth-grinding).
- In females, pinworm infection can spread to the vagina and cause a vaginal discharge.
- Take note of a sudden onset of difficulty sleeping or nighttime restlessness.
Look for actual signs of the worm. Checking for the worms can be done using the naked eye, as follows:
- You can actually see worms in the anal (rectal) area, especially if you look about 2 or 3 hours after your child has fallen asleep. Use a flashlight (torch) to help you see clearly.
- You might also see the worms in the toilet after he or she goes to the bathroom. Look to see if the worms are wriggling in bowel movements. The worms look like tiny pieces of white thread and are very small, about this long.
- They may also be found on underwear in the morning.
Take a collection of worms. If you suspect a pinworm infestation, your doctor may ask you to help make the diagnosis of pinworm by placing a sticky piece of clear cellophane tape against your child’s rectum. Pinworm eggs will stick to the tape and can be seen under a microscope in a laboratory. The doctor might also take some samples from under a child’s fingernails to look for eggs.
Prevent the infection. Pinworm infection is spread by the transfer of pinworm eggs from the anus to someone’s mouth. This typically happens either directly by hand or indirectly through contaminated articles. The following steps will help reduce the spread of the infection and lower the risk of re-infection:
- The best way to protect yourself and your family from a pinworm or any other parasitic, bacterial, or viral infection is to practice and teach proper hand washing techniques. Make sure you and your family wash hands before eating or handling food, after using the bathroom, and after changing a diaper. Wash your hands after attending to children who are being treated for pinworms.
- Keep fingernails clean and trimmed short. Avoid biting your fingernails.
- Avoid scratching the skin around the anus area. Have children wear close-fitting sleepwear and underpants and mittens. This will make it harder for them to scratch at night and pick up the worms.
- Every family member should wash their body every morning and change underclothing daily (showering may be preferred to avoid contaminated bath water). During treatment, shower at night and in the morning, to remove eggs that have been laid during the night.
- Handle the bedding, clothing, and towels of an infected person carefully. Avoid shaking the articles and wash infected articles (underwear, bed linen, sleepwear, and towels) in hot water, separately from other washing.
- Avoid eating in the bedroom. Doing so increases the risk of contact with the pinworm’s eggs.
- Always speak to your health care provider before treating a case of suspected pinworm infection.
- Pinworm infection is not a sign of uncleanliness. Pinworms can be prevented using simple hygiene measures but are not a reflection on household or personal cleanliness.
- Always wear clean inner wares which are washed neatly and often.
- If there are multiple re-infections after treatment, steps should be taken to locate the source of the infection. A child’s playmates, schoolmates, or household members and caretakers should be considered as possible sources.
- Reinfection occurs easily. All household or family members should receive treatment if one or more members has been diagnosed with the infection.
- Pinworm eggs are rarely found in stool or urine samples.