Causes of worms in kids

Worms are a type of parasite.

This article is about threadworm, which is the most common type of worm in kids and adults. Threadworm is also known as pinworm. Threadworms won’t hurt you or your child, and you can treat them easily. But they do spread between people very easily too.

Kids can get threadworms when they accidently get worm eggs on their hands and swallow them. This might happen if your child comes into contact with people with worms or with worm-infected dust, toys or bed linen.

Once swallowed, the eggs get into your child’s small intestine where they hatch and lay more eggs around your child’s anus. This makes your child’s bottom very itchy. If your child scratches his bottom and then touches his mouth, he can swallow the eggs again, causing this cycle to repeat.

If your child touches things around the house without washing her hands, the eggs might spread to other people in the house too.

Worms in kids: signs and symptoms

Most threadworm infections won’t cause any symptoms at all. But some children might have:

  • an itchy bottom, which is usually worse at night
  • redness around the bottom area
  • restlessness
  • a need to often scratch their bottom.

Some rare symptoms include:

  • visible worms – small, white and 8-13 mm long (often mistaken for bits of toilet paper!)
  • itchiness around the vagina
  • abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

If your child has any of these signs and symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

Tests for worms in kids

Your doctor will probably use the ‘sticky tape test’ to check for worm eggs or worms.

This involves putting sticky tape over your child’s anus, removing it and then putting it onto a glass slide. When the doctor or another professional looks at the slide under a microscope in a laboratory, they can see whether there are any worms or worm eggs.

It’s best for your child to have this test early in the morning before he has a bath or does a poo and wipes his bottom.

Treatments for worms in kids

Threadworms in kids are easy to treat and are usually not serious.

Your doctor will probably tell you to take antiparasitic tablets, which you can get over the counter from a pharmacy. These tablets usually work after one or two single doses.

If your child is diagnosed with threadworms, you should treat everyone in the family with antiparasitic tablets. This stops the spread of worms between family members. It’s also a good idea to keep your child home from school while he has worms, to stop worms spreading to other children.

Unfortunately, the eggs spread easily and it’s common for infections to come back.

Prevention of worms in kids

There are several ways to help prevent the spread of worms:

  • Thoroughly wash hands after going to the toilet and before handling food.
  • Cut fingernails regularly.
  • Try to encourage your child not to scratch around her bottom or suck her thumb or fingers.
  • Treat everyone in the family with antiparasitic tablets when someone in the family has worms.
  • If you or your child has worms, regularly wash her clothes and bed linen in hot soapy water every day for up to several days after treatment.
  • Clean toilet seats and potties regularly.