Worms in humans are usually associated with children but the reality is that the most common worm, the threadworm, can affect anyone regardless of age or sex.
The threadworm, sometimes called the pinworm, makes its presence known through symptoms such as an itchy anus, disturbed sleep, irritability, tiredness and sometimes a lack of interest in eating. Confusingly, most of these symptoms can also be indicative of other conditions. To further confuse the issue, at times threadworm infestation will produce no symptoms at all so generally diagnosis can be tricky.
There are a number of ways to check for threadworm infestation:
- Look to see if any worms are visible on the surface of faeces after a bowel movement.
- Try to observe the worms while they are moving around. This is best done in the morning as soon as patient wakes up as the worms will be visible and will “glow” under torchlight.
- Check for the threadworm’s eggs deposited around the anus. They look like small white specks
- Try to spot the eggs of the threadworm using the “adhesive tape test”. Press tape against anus and remove and threadworm eggs should show as white specks.
Threadworms live in the intestines of humans and can survive for up to six weeks. The female worm lays eggs around the anus, usually at night which is the only time female worms come out.
While laying the eggs, the worm also produces an itchy chemical, causing the person to scratch the area. Eggs then stick under fingernails and on fingertips, and can be transferred to the mouth where they can be swallowed and cause re-infestation. The swallowed eggs hatch in the intestine where after a couple of weeks they reach maturity and begin to reproduce.
Clearly threadworm infestation is easily spread so if one member of the family is infested it is generally recommended that the whole family be treated.
Your community pharmacist can advise on treatments and procedures but some commonsense hygiene measure are necessary including cleaning bedding, towels and the house generally to remove threadworm eggs.
Fingernails should be kept short and clean and everyone should be to wash the hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet, after changing nappies and before preparing food.
When taking medicine to treat the infestation, strict hygiene methods should be taken to prevent re-infestation. Speak to your community pharmacist if you have any concerns about possible infestation. There is more to treating threadworm infection than taking a tablet and your pharmacist can discuss the issue and suggest the best ways to manage the infestation.