Pinworms are easy to get. Pinworms are usually spread from child to child, as the eggs can be picked up on children's fingers when they are playing. Eggs can stay on your child's skin for several hours. They can survive for up to 3 weeks on clothes, bedding and toys. If the eggs are on your child's hands or toys and your child puts their fingers or toys in their mouth, the tiny eggs can enter their bodies. The eggs stay in the upper part of the intestine until they hatch. After they hatch, the worms move down the length of the intestine, and then out the anus where they lay more eggs.
When children scratch their itchy bottoms, the tiny eggs can get under their fingernails. As the children move around the house, the eggs may be spread, and other family members can become infected. Children who suck their thumbs are at an increased risk. Sometimes adults breathe in the eggs when the bed covers are shaken. However, this is very uncommon. Children easily infect each other while they are playing and by not thoroughly washing their hands before eating. Pets do not spread pinworms, although they may carry their own kinds of worms.
Most pinworm infections are mild and easily treated. Your doctor may prescribe a single chewable tablet of a medicine called mebendazole (brand name: Vermox). About 2 weeks later, a second tablet is taken. Or your doctor may recommend another kind of medicine, pyrantel (brand names: Pin-X, Pin-Rid). This is also taken in 2 doses about 2 weeks apart.
Even if only one child in the family has pinworms, it is often important that everyone in the household be treated with the pinworm medicine at the same time. All the sheets, blankets, towels and clothing in the house should be washed in hot water, and everyone's fingernails (which might hold the worm eggs) should be carefully cleaned and cut short. Toys, countertops, floors and other surfaces the infected child has touched should be scrubbed. Carpets should be vacuumed.
If you get treatment from your doctor right away and keep everything in the house very clean, your family's encounter with pinworms should soon be over.