What is Pinworm Infection: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Risk Factors, Diagnosis
What Is Pinworm Infection?
Pinworm Infection is perhaps one of the most common types of intestinal worm infection reported in the United States. Pinworms are extremely tiny worms which are white in color and are about half an inch in length. Pinworm Infection usually affects children between 5 and 10 years of age.
Most of the children that are affected by Pinworm Infection stay in day care centers or live in assisted facilities where the chances of the infection spreading are more as cleanliness is questionable due to the number of children present. Pinworm Infection can be treated by medications but there is always a chance of the infection recurring. It is extremely rare for Pinworm Infection to have any serious or long term complications.
What Causes Pinworm Infection?
Pinworm Infection is highly contagious and spreads easily. A child can be infected with Pinworm Infection by accidentally inhaling pinworm eggs which may present on toys, clothes, or linen. These eggs may get deposited there when being touched by an infected person. Pinworm Infection begins as soon as there is inhalation of the Pinworm eggs. Once the eggs enter the body they stay in the intestine until they hatch. Once the pinworm grows, the female adult moves to the colon and from there it moves out of the body through the anus.
These female Pinworms lay eggs on the skin folds of the anus which causes itching irritation in the anal area. When the child scratches the area, the eggs transfer themselves to the fingers of the child. From there the eggs may be deposited on anything which the child touches with his or her fingers like toys, clothes, or other household objects, cutlery like spoons, forks, or plates. The Pinworm eggs may survive on these surfaces for as long as three weeks.
Children tend to get Pinworm Infection easily as they tend to swallow Pinworm eggs when they put toys directly into the mouth. If the child does not wash hands and eats food, the eggs may transfer from the fingers and enter the body.
What are the Risk Factors for Pinworm Infection?
Pinworm Infection is a disease process which can happen to anyone, especially in children living in institutions, hostels, or daycare centers. While any child can get affected by Pinworm Infection there are some risk factors for this disease. These risk factors are:
- Children attending daycare or preschool where they may come in direct contact with children who have had this infection
- The family members or caregivers of children who have been infected by Pinworm Infection are also at risk for getting this infection
- Children living in hostels or places where there are more number of children are also at risk as it is difficult to figure out who might have been affected by Pinworm Infection
- Children who do not have a habit of washing their hands before eating are at risk for developing Pinworm Infection
- Children who suck their thumbs are also at increased risk for developing Pinworm Infection
What are the Symptoms of Pinworm Infection?
There are cases where Pinworm Infection is completely asymptomatic. However, the following symptoms may also raise suspicion for a Pinworm Infection. These symptoms include:
- Strong and persistent itching sensation in the anal region
- Lack of a restful sleep due to the uneasiness caused by the persistent itching sensation around the anal region
- Pain or rash around the anus
- Detection of pinworms in stools
How is Pinworm Infection Diagnosed?
The best way to diagnose Pinworm Infection is to do a tape test. In a tape test, a cellophane tape is taken and pasted on the skin around the anus. This is done first thing in the morning as soon as the child wakes up. If the child has Pinworm eggs around the anal region then these eggs will stick to the tape confirming the diagnosis of Pinworm Infection. Once the eggs stick to the tape, it can be taken to the physician for examination and formulation of a treatment plan.
How is Pinworm Infection Treated?
There are quite a few medications available for treatment of Pinworm Infection. Since Pinworm Infection is highly contagious; therefore, everyone in the family of the affected child need to be treated with medication at one time even if it is for preventive purposes. The most preferred medications used for treatment of Pinworm Infection are mebendazole, Albenza, and pyrantel pamoate. After giving the first dose of the medication, there will be a rest period of about two weeks after which a second dose of the medication will be given. It is important to give more than one course of medication to completely eradicate the Pinworm eggs from the body and prevent reinfection. Apart from the medication, creams and ointments will be prescribed to calm down the skin irritation and the itching sensation around the anal area.
Apart from medical treatment, it is important to take a few precautions at home to prevent any recurrence of Pinworm Infection. These precautions are:
- Making sure that the infected child along with all family members wash their hands thoroughly before eating to prevent any chances of reinfection
- Ensuring that all cutlery and other household items are clean and properly washed before use
- Making sure that everyone has small fingernails
- Avoid biting nails or sucking thumb
- Avoid scratching the anal area even of there is persistent sensation
- Wash all bedding and linen thoroughly with warm water, especially of the infected child, to make sure that there is no chance of a reinfection
Ensuring that the steps mentioned above are practiced diligently can significantly lower the chances of recurrence of Pinworm Infection.