Last Updated on Saturday, 11 December 2010 17:32
Threadworms are a parasite that infects the intestines of humans. Threadworms are the most common type of worm parasite in the UK.
Anyone can become infected with threadworms but they are found more often in children than adults. Infections are passed on from person to person and this can occur in the home, at kindergarten or at school.
Threadworms (also called pinworms) cannot be picked up from animals, but animals can be carriers of other worm types.
What are threadworms?
Threadworms are like short pieces of white cotton (thread) about 5-10mm long. When threadworm eggs are swallowed they hatch in the gut. Within two - four weeks, the female adult worms move down the gut to the anus (back passage or bottom) where they lay thousands of tiny eggs. The eggs are usually laid at night when people are asleep.
The 'glue' that sticks the eggs to the anus causes the skin to itch. After scratching, the eggs can stick to the fingers, or get under the finger nails. They are then easily transferred to the mouth (causing re-infection), to food, or to other people.
Bedclothes, furniture, floors (especially around toilets) and other places in the home can have threadworm eggs on them. Eggs can survive for a few days or weeks outside the human body and can be the source of re-infection.
The primary symptom of threadworms is an itch around the anus. This is usually felt when you are in bed.
You may actually see the threadworms in your child's stool or their bottom. Threadworms are about 1cm in length and are a 'thread like' worm.
Mendazole: The most common treatment for threadworms is Mendazole. Treatment with Mendazole should only be give from 6 months and up. All family members should be treated, even if they do not show symptoms. One dose of Mendazole will kill all the worms but a second dose may be needed two weeks later if the symptoms have not cleared up. This can happen if you swallow eggs just after taking the medication.
Piperazine: Piperazine can be used from three months up. Two doses are taken two weeks apart.
Both of these medications can be purchased at your local pharmacy without a prescription. Talk to your pharmacist if you are pregnant or breast feeding.