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What are threadworms?

Threadworms are small white worms that live in the intestines of humans. They range from 2mm to 13mm long. They look like a piece of white cotton thread, which is where the name comes from, although they are also known as pinworms too. They can be visible in your poo or on your bedsheets.

The female worms lay their eggs on and around the anus and vagina. They also produce a mucus which makes you scratch the area. The eggs then become stuck under the fingernails, where they can be spread to other people if you haven’t washed your hands thoroughly in the meantime.  

How do you get threadworms?

Worms in humans are easily spread by swallowing the eggs. The eggs pass through the digestive system into the intestines, where they hatch. After about two weeks the worms will have grown into adults, at which point the females lay their own eggs and the cycle begins again.  

What are the symptoms of threadworms?

Threadworm symptoms are often unnoticeable to the person who is infected. However you might become very itchy around the anus (and around the vagina too in women) at night when the female worms are laying their eggs. This can be bad enough that it disturbs your sleep.

Symptoms of worms in adults and children also include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Possible skin infections if you break the skin when scratching
  • Bet wetting in children

How can you treat threadworms?

You can treat threadworms by yourself in most circumstances. You only need to go to the doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or your child under the age of 2 is infected. Treatment is slightly different in these circumstances.

Pinworm treatment is usually in the form of tablets or a liquid that you swallow. Everyone you live with should be treated to prevent reinfection.

It’s important to bear in mind that the treatment will kill any anal worms but won’t kill the eggs. The eggs can live for up to two weeks outside the body. To prevent reinfection, it’s important to take extra care with your personal hygiene and cleaning in the home. Vacuum regularly, clean your bathroom and kitchen thoroughly, and make sure you wash your hands regularly, particularly after going to the toilet and before cooking or eating.

What can you do to help prevent threadworms?

It’s not always possible to avoid a threadworm infection, but there are some steps you can take to help prevent it. Good hygiene is one of the most important things, so that means washing your hands before eating and after going to the toilet.

It’s important to encourage children to wash their hands after going to the toilet and before eating anything. If your child is infected, try to make sure they don’t scratch their bottom as this is more likely to spread the worms.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do threadworms look like?

Threadworms look like small white threads, hence the name. They are generally 2mm to 13mm long.

How to get rid of worms in humans?

Medications such as tablets or a liquid can kill the worms but the eggs can live outside the body for up to 2 weeks. To prevent reinfection it’s important to clean your house well and take extra care with personal hygiene.  

What causes worms in humans?

Worms in children and adults are caused by swallowing the eggs. They then hatch in the intestine where they grow into adults before laying their own eggs on or around the anus.

How do you get pinworms?

You get pinworms by swallowing the eggs.

* Please note results, timeframe and individual responses to treatments may vary from person to person. If you do need medical advice you should always speak to a doctor, pharmacist or appropriate medical professional.