Family Health Diary

Common signs of Threadworm

Threadworms look like small pieces of white cotton, about 1 cm long.The most common sign of threadworm infection is an itchy bottom (anus), especially at night. Itching occurs at night because this is when female threadworms leave the anus and lay eggs on the surrounding skin. The glue that sticks the eggs to the skin can irritate the area and cause itching.

Worms may be able to be seen on a child’s faeces (poos) in the toilet or on their pyjamas in the morning. The best time to look is at night when the child is asleep. Use a torch to look around the anal area.

Itching is not the only symptom, some children may be irritable, restless, have sleep disturbances or find it hard to concentrate. Sometimes there are no symptoms.

Threadworms are easily passed from one person to another, especially children. Typically a child will pick up threadworm eggs from items such as clothing, towels, toys, a sandpit or a toilet seat. When they put their hands in their mouth, they swallow the eggs which then travel down into the intestines where they live and grow. Two to four weeks later adult worms move down and out of the anus where they lay new eggs. The child scratches the itchy area and the eggs are transferred onto fingers and then to clothing, toys, etc, and so the cycle begins again.

Threadworms cannot be picked up from animals. Animals are not infected by threadworms.

Prevention and Treatment

1. Treat the whole family
If you know or think that a child has worms, treat the whole family including parents and other adults who live in the same home. Medicines are available from a pharmacy as liquids, tablets, chewable tablets and chocolate.

2. Ask your pharmacist
Ask your pharmacist if the medicine is a once-only treatment or if it needs to be taken again in 2-4 weeks.

3. Check with your doctor
Check with your doctor before treating pregnant women, children less than 6 months of age and people with heart, kidney or liver disease.

4. Help prevent re-infection

  • Give the medicine to everyone in the home at night.
  • Get them to have a bath or shower before going to bed and again in the morning to remove any eggs that were laid during the night.
  • Wash all bed linen and bed wear, underwear and towels in hot water.

5. Help prevent infection

  • Wash hands after using the toilet and before handling food.
  • Discourage nail-biting or thumb-sucking and keep fingernails short and clean

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