Pinworms are parasites of the digestive tract that resemble white filaments. They measure up to 1 centimeter. They are very common in temperate regions, and primarily affect children, the elderly and people with psychiatric disorders. Pinworms enter the digestive tract through food and by nails infected with pinworm eggs. Once ingested, adults colonize the digestive tract, and females lay eggs near the anus. This promotes self-infestation especially in children, who often put their fingers in their mouth.
The main symptom of pinworms is itching (pruritus) of the anus, mostly in the evening or at night. By scratching, the person may catch parasite eggs under the fingernails and subsequently contaminate his environment. In children, there is often disturbed sleep and nightmares. These disorders are associated with fatigue, restlessness and irritability.
The diagnosis of the presence of pinworms is made through the identification of eggs in stool and sampling the anus with adhesive strips (tape test, or Graham test) in the evening or morning. Microscopic observation of the tape may show worms. A doctor conducts these examinations especially when the patient has anal itching
. Pinworms can also be observed with the naked eye, quivering out of the anus, and can be harvested in alcohol or vinegar to conduct necessary tests. A blood test showing an increase of a type of white blood cells, eosinophils, is also possible.
Treatment against pinworms must be thorough. It is indeed necessary to eradicate the larvae to avoid permanent reinfection. Drugs must be taken in one dose, and then resumed after two weeks to eliminate all pinworms. All occupants of a home must be treated simultaneously. Meanwhile, to reduce the itching, you can use petroleum jelly or creams adapted to mucous membranes.
Prevention is essential. It is important to go through all linens, clothing and toys to destroy any eggs. Washing hands regularly is also essential, especially after using the toilet, after scratching and before sitting down to eat. To prevent the transportation of eggs, it is best to keep nails short and to clean them regularly. Moreover, one should wear clothes that are tight enough to prevent direct contact between the hands and the anus.