When your child is having troubles sleeping at night because his bum is just too itchy, it�s time to make an appointment at the doctor. He could have some unpleasant parasites known as pinworms.

They Only Come Out at Night
Pin worms are intestinal parasites, meaning that they live in your intestines. They are not skin parasites. During the evening, the female pinworm will make her way out the anus and lay eggs around the rectal area. These eggs will mature within six hours of being laid. Additionally, these egg deposits are irritating to the skin and often cause a fair amount of bum itching.

While pin worm eggs are usually only visible under a microscope, the pinworms themselves can often be seen by the naked eye. Pinworms are small white worms that are less than a ½ inch in length and about as thick as a piece of thread. They are easily spread through contact and are most common in children, although they can affect anyone of any age.

Pin Worm Symptoms
The most common sign of pinworms is incessant bum itching due to the laying of pinworm eggs around the anus. Other pinworm symptoms include troubles sleeping at night because of the itching and/or moving around a lot during your sleep, again due to itching. In girls, it is possible for the pinworms to migrate to the vagina and for a vaginal infection to occur (marked by a vaginal discharge) because of her scratching. Generally, though, any pinworms that develop in this area tend to die out on their own. However, many people with pinworms tend to be asymptomatic.

There are many other types of worms and parasites that people can get, which can cause more serious problems. Abdominal pain, blood in the stools, fever and loss of appetite are not associated with pinworms and may indicate a more serious problem.

How You Get Pinworms
Pinworms are spread through the ingestion of pinworm eggs. When your child scratches her bottom, the eggs often become lodged under her fingernails. These eggs then get transferred onto clothing, bedding, toys and other surfaces where they can live for up to two weeks. The pinworm eggs need to be ingested in order for the parasites to spread. Since children often put their hands as well as toys into their mouths, it is easy to understand why they are most likely to be affected.

Once the eggs have been ingested, they stay in the small intestines until the eggs hatch. Then the pinworms begin to make their way through the intestines until they reach the large intestines. During the night, the female pinworm will lay her eggs around the outside opening of the anus. When these eggs hatch, the pinworms crawl back into the rectum and begin the cycle all over again. It can take anywhere between two and four weeks for rectal itching to start once the pinworm eggs have been ingested.

Diagnosing and Treating Pinworms
Since pinworms are visible, it is possible for you to see them if you inspect your child�s bottom early in the morning. You may also be able to see the worms in your child�s stools. However, many doctors suggest doing a tape test in order to get a proper diagnosis before you begin pinworms treatment.

To do this test, place some tape on a tongue depressor with the sticky side out. In the morning, when your child has just woken up and before he goes to the bathroom, press the tape against the skin around his anus. A doctor will then examine this tape for pinworm eggs under a microscope. Some pinworms may also be visible on the tape.

Treating pinworms usually consists of taking mebendazole (sold under the name Vermox), which is a chewable tablet. Sometimes pyrantel (available under the brand names of Pin-X and Pin-Rid) is prescribed instead. Both types of drugs are given in a single dose, although it is common to prescribe a second dose to be taken two weeks later to kill off any lingering eggs.

Because people with pinworms often do not show any symptoms, although they may be carriers of the parasites, it is quite common for an entire family to receive pinworm treatment once there is a confirmed diagnosis in at least one family member. Additionally, it is necessary to wash all clothing, bedding, towels and blankets in your household in hot water when you begin treatment.

Home Remedies for Pin Worms
Pinworms love sugar and refined carbohydrates so eliminating, or at least minimizing these foods from your family�s diet can help reduce your chances of getting pinworms. Eating foods that are high in fiber, such as grains, along with lots of raw vegetables can both prevent an infestation as well as help make treatment more effective.

Giving your child probiotic supplements, specifically acidophilus and/or bifidus, can help promote the growth of good bacteria in your child�s intestines as well as in a girl�s vagina. The presence of these good bacteria offers your child�s body natural protection against potentially harmful organisms like pinworms. It is recommended that you administer one capsule twice a day for a month, followed by one capsule daily for two months.

There are also a number of herbal treatments that contain antiparasitic properties which may help clear up your child�s case of pinworms. For the appropriate dosage size, consult a trained herbalist.

  • Wormwood: One dose administered twice daily for a week.
  • Concentrated Grapefruit Seed Extract (i.e. Citricidal, Nutrabiotic): Add 5 to 10 drops of the extract to a glass of juice or water. Drink a glass of this mixture two to three times daily for three to seven days. Note: the extract has an extremely bitter taste.
  • Garlic: Children over a year can eat a mashed clove mixed with honey two to three times daily for a period of two to three weeks.
  • Black Walnut Tincture: Three drops administered three times a day for a maximum of seven days. Note: this is a powerful botanical and is therefore only recommended for children over the age of 12.

Pinworm Prevention
Here are some steps that you and your family should take to prevent the spread of pinworms in your home:

  • Wash your hands properly and thoroughly, especially before you eat and after using the washroom
  • Keep your fingernails short and clean
  • Avoid putting your fingers in your mouth or biting your nails
  • Wear clean underwear everyday
  • Bathe daily in the morning
  • Vacuum common play areas regularly and frequently
  • If you are receiving treatment for pinworms, be sure to change your clothes, bed sheets and underwear after each dose

Learn more about pinworms by chatting with other moms in our school age forum.