Pinworms in Babies - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Pinworm infections are the most common type of intestinal infections caused by small parasitic worms. They affect millions of individuals every year, especially babies and toddlers.

As a parent, it may be a cause of concern. But you need not have to worry, since it doesn’t take long to get rid of the infection. Read through to know in detail about the pinworms in babies.

What Are Pinworms?

Pinworms are thin, tiny, wiggly and white worms that infect the intestines. They are also known as parasitic worms, seatworms or threadworms.

They are highly contagious, and your babies can quickly contract the infection through interpersonal contact or objects that contain worms or eggs. The worms that pass through ingestion reside in the colon or rectum and lay eggs all around the anus. Moreover, humans can only harbor pinworms.

In a research study, it is estimated that 20 – 40% of children in the US carry pinworms.

Can Babies Get Pinworms?

Yes, babies do get pinworms, but it is uncommon. Infants who are not crawling, eating solid foods or drinking water are at zero risk of ingesting pinworms and their eggs. Therefore, they will not contract any illness. In only rare cases, eggs of the worms can be inhaled. Generally Infants have a clean anal region because you may often wipe their anus using baby wipes with every diaper change. Therefore, the infection is not likely to happen. Your little one will be at greater risk of pinworms once she starts crawling, eating or drinking.

How Do Babies Get Pinworms?

The eggs can live up to two weeks on some objects. Thus, a baby can easily pick up the worms by holding any object like a towel or a toy and can put her fingers in the mouth. She can also pick the pinworms by eating contaminated food.

The ingested eggs will travel down the large intestine, and they will hatch there. The female pinworms will move from the intestine to the anal region for laying eggs. As these worms move, they can cause severe itching which can disturb your baby’s sleep.

With the severe itching, your baby can likely scratch her anal region from where the eggs can enter her fingernails. Here is where another cycle starts when she puts her fingers or hands in her mouth.

How To Tell Your Baby Has Pinworms?

If your baby is infected with pinworms, she may likely have a troubled sleep and fussiness caused by itching at the anal region.

Irritation around the anus (in girls, vaginal itching) is also a clue. The itching becomes worse at night since the worms travel to the rectal area to lay eggs. In girls, the infection can spread to the vagina causing a vaginal discharge. Itching can also lead to broken skin, which may likely result in a bacterial infection.

Pinworms can cause nausea and vomiting in rare cases. But this can only happen if there are too many pinworms in the intestines. In rarest of the cases, there is a chance of appendicitis which occurs when pinworms block the appendix.

Pinworms will not cause any serious symptoms like bloody bowel movements, abdominal pain, poor appetite or fever. If your baby has any of these signs and symptoms, there is a chance of more severe condition that requires an immediate visit to a healthcare provider.

How To Diagnose Pinworms In Babies?

  • You can establish your suspicions by checking for the pinworms in the anal area by using a flashlight. Since worms lay eggs mostly at night, you can check then or early in the morning. You may also find pinworms on the surface of your child’s feces or at the vaginal tip.
  • You can also check for pinworms by gently pressing a transparent tape to the anus wherein the eggs stick to the tape. It is known as ‘Scotch tape test’. You can take this sample to your child’s paediatrician for further tests.
  • Blood tests are not required for diagnosing pinworm infections.

Note: If there is only itching with no clue of pinworms and eggs, it can be a sign of any other problem like anal dryness, diaper rash, bacterial infection or diarrhea. Your child’s pediatrician can provide the right diagnosis.

What Are The Treatments For Pinworms In Babies?

Mild case of pinworm infection will go away by its own. But a moderate case will cause itching and disrupted sleep and a severe infestation can lead to complications – more seious infection. So, the foremost thing is you should not let the infection turn worse.

Over the counter medications – Your child’s pediatrician will prescribe OTC medications like mebendazole, pyrantel or albendazole to kill the pinworms. The doctor may also suggest treatment to the whole family since pinworm infection is contagious and spreads quickly.

Repeat treatment – The symptoms of pinworm infection will disappear within one week of treatment. Since the treatment will only kill the worms, the doctor may offer the same treatment two weeks later. It will kill the pinworms that may have hatched from eggs after the first treatment.

Once both the treatments are given, you may find many worms in your little one’s stool, some wriggling and moving. Nothing to worry here, since the worms are just leaving your baby’s body.

How To Treat Pinworms In Your Baby At Home?

  • Administer the prescribed medication to your little one as suggested by the pediatrician.
  • A shower or give a sponge bath every morning. Daily morning cleaning is essential to remove eggs that are laid overnight.
  • Wash all the bedding, clothes, towels, diapers in hot water to kill pinworms and eggs. It prevents infection that may recur. Also, clean the chairs and couches and vacuum all the carpets at your home.
  • Wash her toys with soap and hot water. Also, keep the floor, table, and other surfaces tidy that your baby may come in contact.
  • Open the blinds and curtains so that there is proper sunlight into the rooms. Pinworm eggs are sensitive to sunlight, so it can kill them.

Home Remedies To Treat Pinworms In Babies:

Although you can always consult your baby’s doctor for pinworm infection, you can also try out the below given home remedies to begin the treatment immediately.

1. Garlic:

Garlic is strongly antibacterial and antifungal in nature, so it is widely used in treating infections. Try adding garlic to a variety of foods so that babies with pinworms will gain benefit.

Make a paste by grinding a few cloves of fresh garlic until smooth and then mix with Vaseline. Apply it to the buttocks and rectal area to ease itching and kill any worms present.

2. Castor Oil and Coconut Oil:

When used in combination, castor and coconut oils are very effective in treating pinworms.

Mix one teaspoon of warm castor oil with one teaspoon of warm coconut oil. Apply this mixture all over the private parts of the child and it will bring relief from itching.

Pinworm Follow-up:

It is common for the pinworm infection to recur after several months of treatment. If you find symptoms again, call a doctor immediately and go ahead with the treatment.

What Are The Consequences Of Untreated Pinworms?

If the pinworms in babies are not treated, they may lead to the following consequences:

  • Genital itching
  • Diarrhea
  • Vaginal discharge associated with genital rash and skin irritation
  • Bedwetting

How To Prevent Pinworms In Babies?

Strict hygiene measures can avert the pinworm infection without any medication and also reduces the risk of infection to recur. The following are the hygiene steps you should follow:

  • Clean your baby’s nails using a scrub brush to prevent eggs from getting trapped in the nails.
  • Do not encourage thumb sucking and nail biting habit in your child.
  • Rinse your hands before and after changing the diaper.
  • When you are handling the infection, try washing bed linens more often.
  • Clean toilet seats every day to minimize the risk of infection.
  • Do not allow your little one to scratch around the anal region by keeping a diaper on all the time.
  • If anyone is being treated for pinworms in your home, try to wash everyone’s bedding and clothing in hot water to get rid of worms and their eggs.

Hope you have a clear understanding about pinworm infection in babies and how you can deal with it. If you know any methods that have helped you in curbing the pinworm infection, share with us in the comment section.


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Dr. Arun Wadhwa

Dr. Arun Wadhwa has more than 30 years of experience as a pediatrician. He operates his own clinic in South Delhi and is also associated with the Madhukar Rainbow Children's Hospital. Dr. Wadhwa completed his graduation and post-graduation from the University College of Medical Sciences and the associated Safdarjang Hospital, New Delhi. He is a member of the Indian Academy... more

Jessica Albert

Jessica Albert is a passionate writer who seeks to connect with her readers through wit and charm. Her work aims to invoke curiosity and keep the readers engaged through and through. She has prior experience working with magazines and e-commerce establishments as a content marketer and editor. Being a mother herself, she puts all her knowledge into creating content about... more