Pinworm infection in babies is a contagious intestinal infection caused by tiny parasites called pinworms. These worms inhabit the intestine and are usually harmless. However, they can be annoying as they cause itching around the anus, making sleeping difficult. Generally, pinworm infection in children under two years of age is uncommon but possible. Timely diagnosis and treatment are necessary to alleviate itching and avert complications like bacterial skin infection that constant itching may cause. Read on to learn more about pinworm infection, its treatment, and prevention 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 (1).
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.
It is estimated that 20 to 40% of children in the US carry pinworms (2).
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 (2).
How Do Babies Get Pinworms?
The eggs can live up to two weeks on some objects. Thus, babies can easily pick up the worms by holding any object like a towel or a toy and can put their fingers in their mouth. They can also pick the pinworms by eating contaminated food (1).
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 the anal region from where the eggs can enter their fingernails. Here is where another cycle starts when the babies put their fingers or hands in their mouth (3).
How To Tell Your Baby Has Pinworms?
If your baby is infected with pinworms, they 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 (4). 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 (5).
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 them or early in the morning.
- 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 the ‘Scotch tape test’. You can take this sample to your child’s pediatrician for further tests (3).
- 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 cases of pinworm infection will go away on their own. But a moderate case will cause itching and disrupted sleep and a severe infestation can lead to complications. Therefore, you should not let the infection get worse.
- Over the counter medications: Older children are usually prescribed OTC medications like pyrantel pamoate, mebendazole, etc. However a pediatrician might suggest an age-appropriate treatment option for your baby. The doctor may also suggest treatment to the whole family since pinworm infection is contagious and spreads quickly (5).
- 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 (6).
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.
- Wipe your baby’s bottom every time you change the diapers.
- 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 so that your baby may come in contact (3).
- 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 (1).
Home Remedies To Treat Pinworms In Babies:
Although you must always consult your baby’s doctor for pinworm infection. Meanwhile, you may also try out some of these home remedies to manage the infection.
Garlic is strongly antibacterial and antifungal in nature. It could be used in management of pinworm infections in babies. However, more research is needed to prove this (7 ).
2. Coconut Oil:
Oils such as onion oil and coconut oils are effective in treating worm infections due to their anthelmintic activity and laxative effects (8).
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.
How To Prevent Pinworms In Babies?
- Clean your baby’s nails using a scrub brush to prevent eggs from getting trapped in the nails.
- Do not encourage thumb sucking habits 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.
Pinworms in babies could make them uncomfortable and affect their sleeping patterns. Although it is an uncommon infection, a baby might still contract it through contaminated objects. Hence, ensure to maintain proper personal hygiene around the house to avoid infection. If you suspect a pinworm infection in your baby, consult a pediatrician and get them tested. Administer the medications on time and clean the baby’s anus frequently with sterilized wipes to avoid further infection in the household.
- Pinworm Infection.
- That Anal Itch: How to Diagnose and Permanently Get Rid of Pinworms.
- Pinworms: Treatment and Prevention.
- M.D.Thomas, et al., The treatment of pinworm infection (Enterobiasis): A comparative study of three oxyuricides.
- Fathy Abdel-Ghaffar, et al., (2011). The effects of different plant extracts on intestinal cestodes and on trematodes.