How Pinworms Affect Families and Pets

Pinworms in the Appendix
Ed Uthman, MD/Wikimedia Commons

Pinworms, also known as threadworms, are a common problem for people and especially children. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), pinworms are the most common worm infection in the United States. However, there is often confusion about where this worm comes from and how it is transmitted.

Pinworms in People

The type of pinworm that people are susceptible to is known as Enterobius vermicularis.

This infection is also sometimes referred to as enterobiasis. Only humans, and possibly other primates, can transmit this type of infection. Pinworms are transmitted between humans using a fecal to oral route like contaminated hands and infected bedding.

You'll know if you have pinworms because they are visible and often cause discomfort and itching in the anal area. Kids will often scratch the rectal area which allows the pinworm eggs to get underneath their fingernails, infecting their toys and friends. It is also common to experience a rash or skin irritation near the anus or vagina. Symptoms like insomnia, abdominal pain, and bacterial infection may also occur in individuals.

The CDC elaborates,

"People become infected, usually unknowingly, by swallowing (ingesting) infective pinworm eggs that are on fingers, under fingernails, or on clothing, bedding, and other contaminated objects and surfaces. Because of their small size, pinworm eggs sometimes can become airborne and ingested while breathing."

Pinworms in Animals

Dogs and cats do not get pinworms. As a result, they are not a potential reservoir for infection of people either. In other words, your child cannot get pinworms from your dog or cat. However, there are other species of animals that are susceptible to pinworms. The types of pinworms these animals are susceptible to are different than the Enterobius vermicularis pinworm that normally infects people.

Horses, for example, are susceptible to a form of pinworm known as Oxyuris equi and another known as Probstmayria vivipara. Rabbits can become infested with Passalurus ambiguus and hamsters and mice may get Syphacia obvelata.

Getting Rid of Pinworms

These tiny, worm-like parasites can be fought off in mild infections when home treatment is available. However, it is recommended to get medical treatment since it's very easy to transfer pinworms to other people and areas. Here are some tips to get rid of these buggers:

 

Make Sure Everything is Clean

Practicing good hygiene will allow your pinworm infection to clear up quickly. Pinworms last for about six weeks, so it's important to clean your bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, and other areas frequently to avoid a bad infection.

Wash Your Hands

It's important to use soap and warm water to keep the pinworms from spreading. Make sure to do a thorough wash after using the restroom or changing diapers as well.

Clean Your Fingernails

Do a good cut and scrub so that pinworm eggs don't get stuck underneath your fingernails. If you bite your nails, this can also easily spread the infection.

Sanitize Your Fabrics

Whether it's your clothes, linen, or towels, it's imperative to throw them in hot water and laundry detergent every day to keep any pinworms away.