Consumer Reports: Preventing pinworm infection
One of the most common worm infections in the U.S. is all too easy to spread
Pinworm, or Enterobius vermicularis, is an itch-inducing parasite and the most prevalent worm infection in the U.S., affecting millions of children, of all socioeconomic backgrounds, each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 50 percent of school-age children could be infected with pinworm at some point.
To keep you and your children safe from pinworm, it's best to take precautions. The most important: Wash your hands, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers, and before handling food. It’s the most effective way of preventing pinworm.
"As with so many infectious diseases, proper hand hygiene is the most important means of preventing the spread of infection," says Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Mercy. "Proper handwashing includes using friction and rotary action for 15 seconds, including the palms, back of hands, wrists and fingernails."
Although the infection is most prevalent among children under 18, it’s easily spread to anyone in contact with or taking care of an infected child, making schools, family households, and daycare centers hot zones for pinworm.
The infection is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or by touching contaminated surfaces such as clothing, bedding, toys, faucets, and toilet seats. Pinworm eggs can also be ingested or inhaled, for example, by touching your mouth or nose after coming in contact with a contaminated surface.
While the treatment for pinworm is effective, reinfection is common because eggs can live for two to three weeks, so repeating treatment after two weeks is recommended to rid your body of any eggs not killed by the first treatment.
"It’s important to keep in mind that you want to treat the child and all others in the family," says Jackson. "And then repeat treatment after two weeks."
Learn more about the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy.