Itchy bottom? It could be worms!
Worms are the first thing we think of when a child has an itchy bottom! Threadworms, also known as pinworms, are the most common worm infection in Australia. Infection is common. Anyone can get worms though it is usually small children who get infected and this is probably because they are more likely to put their fingers in their mouths.
Infection occurs when threadworm eggs are swallowed or breathed in. This usually occurs when eggs come in to contact with hands that then go near the mouth. Sometimes eggs can be picked up from food, clothing or other items.
The eggs travel from the mouth to the gastrointestinal tract where it takes about 4-8 weeks for them to hatch and grow in to mature worms. The female worm travels down to the anus where she lays thousands of eggs and then dies. This seems to happen at night hence the itchy bottom at night time. Children often reinfect themselves by scratching and catching eggs under their fingernails which can be transferred to the mouth again or other items. The eggs can survive about 2-3 weeks on objects where other people can catch them.
- Itchy bottom, especially at night
- Not feeling hungry
- Feeling a bit unwell or irritable
- Worms may be seen moving in faeces or around the anus. They look like thick white cotton and are about 0.5-1.5cm long
- The best time to check the bottom of a child you think may have worms is at night in the first hour after they have gone to sleep. Grab a torch and have a look!
- Pressing a piece of sticky tape to the anus first thing in the morning can sometimes catch some eggs
If anyone experiences severe symptoms seek medical advice.
Anyone over 2 years of age who is not pregnant or breastfeeding needs to have only one tablet or chocolate square treatment. It is a good idea to treat everyone in the house and do it at the same time and then treat again two weeks later. This is because the treatment only kills the worms and not eggs so more can hatch over those two weeks. There is a treatment available for 1-2 year olds. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not treat themselves just in case and should discuss with their Pharmacist or Doctor if they have worms.
To prevent reinfection
- Wash towels, sheets and pyjamas with hot water to kill eggs
- Don’t share towels
- Clean children’s fingernails and keep them short
- Vacuum and wipe down furniture
- Make sure everyone washes their hands well after toileting and before eating
Do people get worms from animals?
People can not catch threadworms from animals. Other worms such as hookworms and tapeworms can be passed from animals to humans but this is not common in Australia.