Kids are precious gifts to us, and we would do anything within our power to keep them safe. However, some not-so-obvious factors can subtly affect our children, and we wouldn’t know until it’s almost too obvious. One thing parents need to look out for is threadworms in kids.
Threadworms are tiny thread-like organisms that are known to survive inside human guts. These worms are easy to spread, that is why it is common, especially in kids, but they are usually not severe.
The female threadworms travel up from the guts to the anus where they lay their eggs, which can be deposited on clothing, fingers, and anywhere in the surroundings making it very easy to spread.
The treatment involves medication as well as being hygienic enough to wipe out the eggs from the environment to avoid re-infection.
In treating threadworm infection in a confirmed case, everybody under the roof and in that environment should be treated at the same because some people may have threadworms in them and still not show any symptoms.
In this article, we will be focusing on threadworms in kids.
What are threadworms?
Threadworms, also known as ‘Pinworms,’ are thread-like worms that are white and tiny with a length between 2mm to 13mm long. They are found in the human intestines and can also infect kids.
They easily spread at night to a child’s anus when they are asleep.
Life-cycle of threadworms and how they can be spread
Threadworms have a life span of about 5-6 weeks in the intestines before they die, but they can live up to 2 weeks outside the body. Before they die, they make sure to reproduce.
Adult female pinworms crawl out usually at night when the children are asleep to lay microscopic eggs around the anus. This causes itching around the anus, and when the kids scratch their anus unconsciously to relieve the itching, they get the eggs in their fingers.
Later on, these eggs get swallowed when the child eats their fingers, put their unwashed hands in their mouths, or eats food without washing their hands.
The eggs laid can fall off from the anus and on to the kid’s clothes, bedding, etc. They also can get into the environment when the clothes or beddings get changed, and they may settle on surfaces like dust and can easily be picked by another person around.
Once that person swallows it, he or she can become infected. Again, these eggs can find their way into your foods, toothbrushes, fingers, or drinks. Inside the host’s intestines, the eggs hatch and gradually develop and grow into adult threadworms.
These adult threadworms reproduce and lay their eggs on the skin around the anus whenever they crawl out at night, and the cycle continues either with the same host or another while continually going on and on.
On rare occasions, threadworms have been found to survive in the nose. Some people want to know how many threadworms live in your gut. The answer is that the number of threadworms communing in a human gut varies across persons.
Symptoms of threadworm
These are signs that suggest that your kid could be having threadworms infection, and as a caregiver or parent, you should look out for these signs.
The common symptoms include:
- Spotting worms in your kids’ feces or the skin around their anuses
- Severe itching around the anus
- Disturbed sleeps – The kid keeps waking up repeatedly at night because of discomfort from the itching
- Significant weight loss
- Irritated skin around the anus
Diagnosis of threadworms
The symptoms of threadworms are evident in only a handful of people. Some people do not show symptoms, yet they have the organism in them.
However, a child may sometimes pass out whitish thin thread-like worms in their feces, or you may find such organisms around their anuses even though they are not experiencing any symptoms.
In babies, worms are difficult to detect as they move around a lot, but in the evening, you can check your baby’s buttocks when the baby must have fallen asleep. Using a torchlight, you are likely to spot one or more worms inching out of the baby’s anus opening.
These are female threadworms coming to lay eggs in that area. You do not need to panic since you just have the option of seeing a pharmacist for the best treatment option available for your baby.
You can contact your doctor if you are still unsure about your diagnosis. Your doctor may confirm the presence of threadworms in your child’s guts by asking you to have a sticky tape test.
This test involves you pressing some see-through tape on your child’s anus opening and the area close to the opening first thing in the morning before bathing or wiping your child.
You are required to place the clear tape on a glass slide and send it to the laboratory for it to be examined under a microscope to see if there are any eggs stuck on the see-through tape.
Treatment of threadworms
Once there is a suspected or clinically confirmed case of threadworm infection, you should have the whole household treated without excluding anybody, even those without symptoms.
The reason is that many people are asymptomatic to threadworms infection and, thus, may show no signs.
This is because, if one person in a home is infected, others are likely to be infected, too. This means it is crucial that everyone in the house gets treatment.
The common treatments include;
- Taking medications to kill the threadworms in your gut
- Taking necessary measures to clear out threadworm eggs which may be around the anus of an infected person and prevent them from getting out into the home environment
Babies below the age of three months do not need medication for the treatment of threadworms. Only hygienic measures should be applied to eradicate threadworm infection. This is because, the use of medication is licensed for the age group above three months.
The treatment of threadworms in kids using medication may not require a visit to the hospital. A pharmacist can easily prescribe medication to use. You can buy over-the-counter medicines for threadworms from the pharmacist with or without prescriptions.
The drug known as Mebendazole is usually the treatment administered to kids older than two years. Kids above six months and below two years can still take the drugs, but it is unlicensed for them too. This medicine usually comes in chewable tablets for adults and liquid for children to swallow.
It is also required that every member of the household should take a dose of this medication at the same time for complete eradication of threadworms in the family. Only a dose of this drug is enough to kill the worms in the guts.
However, a second dose is needed if the infection is not gone, this could be as a result of swallowing more eggs after completing the medication.
You should inform the pharmacist if you need to treat a kid under two years if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. In such cases, you should see a doctor. It is also important to note that after taking the first dose of the drugs for threadworms, you should apply hygienic measures to prevent a recurrence.
Treating threadworms in kids can be quite tricky, and they are known to keep reoccurring. The prevention of threadworms in kids is possible by using natural means.
Getting rid of threadworms naturally
The use of medicines will surely kill the threadworms in the gut, but it won’t destroy the eggs because they are laid outside the guts around the anus.
These eggs are known to survive outside the host and even on surfaces such as the bathroom surfaces, underwear, clothing, bedding, sheets, toothbrushes, kitchen surfaces, and also the fingers for two weeks before they die.
The areas and surfaces where the eggs are could allow them to survive for about two weeks. It could also be direct routes to the mouth and into the body system.
Therefore, hygiene measures are the natural ways of stopping the spread and swallowing of these eggs. These measures inevitably break the cycle and stop re-infection.
You can only achieve this in the following ways:
- Have your kids wash their hands with soap and water regularly
- Encourage and teach your kids to wash their hands and scrub under fingernails especially before eating, and after using the toilet
- As parents or caregivers, you should wash your hands before and after changing baby’s napkins or diapers
- Isolate suspected and confirmed infected cases
- Getting everybody else in the family treated as well if there is an individual at home suffering from threadworm infection
- Adopt the habit of bathing every in the morning as soon as you are awake
- Rinse toothbrushes with salt and hot water before using them
- Encourage your kids always to keep fingernails short, do by setting examples
- Regularly wash sleepwear, towels, sheets, towels, and soft toys and other personal belongings at the average temperature
- Clean kitchen, bathroom and other widely touched surfaces with disinfectant to kill the eggs and other germs
- Always vacuum and dust surfaces with a damp cloth because threadworms eggs could be settling like dust on the surfaces. Dispose of the fabric right after use. Pay special attention to the bedrooms while vacuuming mattresses and where the kids play
- Always make sure that your kids wear underwear at night before they go to sleep and always have them changed and washed it in the morning
- Never shake or wiggle clothing or beddings, to avoid the eggs from landing on other surfaces
- Do not allow the sharing of towels and other personal items in the home and outside the home.
- Teach your kids to stop biting their fingernails or sucking their thumbs and fingers
These preventive treatments are just simple ways of preventing the spread of threadworms eggs, and they are easy to follow and adopt.
They are only simple hygiene habits that are effective in halting the spread of threadworm infections, as well as its re-occurrence.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant, during your first trimester, you should not take any worm killing medicines. However, hygiene measures may be competent enough to have dewormed in no time. After six weeks, the threadworms will die off, so as long as you avoided swallowing more eggs, which will result in re-infection. Although the worm-killing drug, mebendazole, is strictly not licensed for pregnant women. However, if your doctor feels that the treatment is needed, then you might get the medicine prescribed for you.
What if I am Breastfeeding?
If you are a breastfeeding mother, you are not required to use worm killing drugs to deworm. But with six weeks of strict hygiene measures, you may be free from threadworms. However, if your doctor feels that medication is necessary, then you may be prescribed to take mebendazole. But then, the medicine, mebendazole, is strictly not licensed for breastfeeding mothers to use.
Can a kid with threadworms go to school?
Yes. The kid can be allowed to go to school so as long as the symptoms of threadworms are not that severe. Plus if you are strict with the application of hygiene measures which helps you in keeping threadworms eggs off their fingers, toys, and maybe clothing to prevent spreading them to other kids in school, then it is okay for your child to resume school.
Are threadworms harmful?
Threadworms are typically not harmful. Apart from the fact that the symptoms are so much discomforting which includes itching, disturbed periods of sleep, bed-wetting, and other mild symptoms, there is nothing life-threatening about this condition. However, in females, threadworms can crawl and wander away from the anus and lay their eggs in the vagina or urethra.
In such a case, you might have to contact your doctor, and your doctor will have to examine the girl’s vaginal discharge, issues with excreting urine, or bed-wetting to check for threadworms and the eggs.
In rare cases, threadworms infection can be so severe. It can cause other severe symptoms like significant weight loss due to loss of appetite. However, threadworms infection can easily be treated and prevented.
Have you ever had to deal with threadworm in your child before? If yes, what steps did you take in controlling the infestation? Kindly share with us in the comments below. Also take the time to include tips or suggestions on how you think theparentian.com can improve its services to prospective readers.