Have a Pinworm Infection? Don't Be Embarrassed
A lot of people have experienced a pinworm infection, and while they are easy to catch and treat, being called out for having any type of "worm" can sting. However, is there anything about pinworms that necessitates public stigma?
Small, round and everywhere
"Pinworms are small, round, white worms that cause a common parasitic infection called enterobius vermicularis. This is also known as pinworm, threadworm, seatworm infections or oxyuriasis," said Khara Jefferson, D.N.P., APRN, FNP-C. "They are the most common worm infection in the United States."
If it's so common, with a whopping 14 percent of Americans infected, you probably know more than one person who has had it, but don't expect them to talk about it. The high prevalence is due to ease of transmission.
"These are most commonly transmitted from person to person via the fecal-oral route," Jefferson said. "Person-to-person transmission is through contact with contaminated clothes or bed linens, contaminated fomites, such as toys, carpeting, or curtains, and rarely via oral-anal sexual contact. They can also be self-infected via the transfer of the eggs of the worms to a person's mouth after scratching the perianal area with one's hands."
Check the kiddos
According to Leann Poston, M.D., MBA, M.Ed., anyone can get a pinworm infection, and there's no reason to be embarrassed. She added children are frequent spreaders—not a surprise, given that those little hands like to wander, not just around their own body, but around any environment they occupy. Plus, it can be difficult to get children to wash their hands.
"Those at risk of pinworm infection include preschool- and school-aged children, household members and caretakers of infected patients, and persons who are in institutionalized settings and daycare settings," Jefferson said.
Fun for family members
Aside from being easy to contract, pinworms are easy to treat. The only issue that stems from the treatment is that anyone in your household must undergo it, too, which means you cannot and should not suffer in silence.
"Albendazole is given as a one-time dose on an empty stomach at the time of diagnosis, and a second dose is given two weeks after the initial treatment to prevent re-infestation. It may be chewed, swallowed or crushed," Jefferson said.
One of two other medications is mebendazole, which is given as a one-time dose and may also be chewed, swallowed or crushed. If the infection is still present after three weeks, a second dose can be given. The third option is pyrantel pamoate, which is a liquid medication found over the counter, which can be used to easily treat the entire family.
"Pinworm infection is common and people should not be embarrassed since most people are asymptomatic," Jefferson said. "The more we educate the public about pinworms and its causes, the better-informed everyone will be."