pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis) infection

Q. My neighbor’s five-year-old daughter came down with a pinworm infestation. They found tiny worms crawling out of her anus. She was taken to the pediatrician and given medication.

The pinworms went away and my friend thought all was well, but in the two months since then, the pinworms have come back repeatedly. Both the same child and now another child have them. My friend is beside herself with frustration and disgust. All the affected people have taken the anti-worm medication, but not all at the same time. My friend has cut everyone’s nails short, laundered their sheets repeatedly, and told all of them not to touch dirt.

My children have spent several hours at her house. I didn’t know the infestation had continued when I let them play there. I haven’t seen pinworms on them yet but I am worried. Do you have advice on how to get rid of this persistent infestation?

A. Pinworms are extremely common, affecting somewhere between 10 and 40 percent of children at some point. They are much less common in adults.

Although pinworm infections are not dangerous, they are kind of gross. They may cause bothersome anal itching and look like little wiggly pieces of white thread, less than half an inch long.

Pinworms are treated with prescription drugs such as albendazole (Albenza) or mebendazole (Vermox). Pyrantel pamoate is another worm medication sold without a prescription under names such as Pin-X and Reese’s Pinworm Medicine. Retreatment in two weeks is recommended to combat re-infestation. Frequent hand washing may also be helpful.

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  1. Nl

    Onion is highly toxic to cats. Do not follow this advice.

  2. enterobius vermicularis

    The coolest part of an office visit for pinworms is telling Mom about the scotch tape test, and when she returns showing her the eggs under the microscope.

  3. MB

    I once popped a garlic oil capsule down my cat’s throat. He wasn’t thrilled. And every long round little white worm in his digestive tract was highly motivated to leave.
    I’ve since found that some cats develop a preference for a LIGHT sprinkle of garlic granules on their food, more so if balanced with onion granules. However, this can result in their unpopularity with certain tiny vampires.
    Go figure!
    Disclaimer: garlic can be strong medicine, and must be respected as such. It is possible to overdo.

  4. keedo

    This brings to mind a show on parasites that kids who have to deal with them might find as fascinating as I did, on NPR’s RadioLab. Past shows are here >

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