7 things you didn’t want to know – but probably should – about the curious plague of rectal pinworms

Parasitic worms in a human stool, as seen from a microscope | Image by Jarun011/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

FEATURE — I have had the opportunity to practice medicine in different parts of the country, including Utah, Florida, Washington, Idaho and California. Either I have been oblivious in these other places (which is entirely possible) or there are a lot more kids and adults with pinworms in Utah than anywhere else.

Given their prevalence, here are seven things you need to know about these microscopic egg-layers:

1. Pinworms are small parasites that can live in the colon and rectum.

You get them when you swallow their eggs. The eggs hatch inside your intestines. While you sleep, the female pinworms leave the intestines through the anus and lay eggs on nearby skin. But where do you get them, you might ask.

2. Kids are the biggest culprits.

Between 20-40 percent of children have pinworms at any time. As I break the news of infection to patients, I always ask if they are around a lot of kids. Almost 100 percent of the time, the answer is “yes,” whether it’s their own, their grandkids or kids they might be exposed to at a job, such as a daycare. If you notice your younger kids doing a lot of scratching or being really irritable at night, let your pediatrician know.

3. Pinworms spread easily.

When people who are infected touch their anus, the eggs attach to their fingertips. They can spread the eggs to others directly through their hands or through contaminated clothing, bedding, food or other articles. The eggs can live on household surfaces for up to 2 weeks.

4. Pinworms cause irritation but are not dangerous.

They are annoying more than anything else. A common scenario where I see them as a gynecologist is when women come in complaining of vaginal irritation. I can see them with my microscope as I look at a sample. Some apparently get lost and enter the vaginal vault and immediately die because of the acidity. But as they break down, they cause intense irritation.

5. Many people have no symptoms at all.

Some people feel itching around the anus or vagina. The itching may become intense, interfere with sleep and make you irritable.

6. Mild infections may not need treatment.

But if you do need medicine, everyone in the household should take it. It can be purchased over-the-counter.

7. The best way to avoid infection is frequent hand-washing.

Don’t bite your nails. Don’t touch your mouth and lips. Don’t eat with unwashed hands. Don’t let your kids do any of these, either. Wash after using the bathroom.

So there you go. You will probably be hyperaware about this for a few weeks now, but it may also explain some things you are seeing and experiencing either with yourself or with your children. If so, hopefully this will help it to be diagnosed and treated. Good luck!


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1 Comment

  • LunchboxHero November 26, 2018 at 8:48 am

    *closes eyes, plugs ears* La la la la la! La la la la la!

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