Pinworm in babies is a contagious intestinal infection caused by tiny parasites called pinworms. They inhabit the intestine and are usually harmless. However, they can be annoying as they cause itching around the anus resulting in sleep disturbances.
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, also known as Enterobius vermicularis, 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 fecal-oral transmission through 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. Another name for pinworm infection is oxyuriasis.
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).
Once ingested, the eggs will travel through the large intestine, where they will hatch, and the female pinworms will migrate from the gastrointestinal tract to the anal region to lay more eggs. As these worms move, they can cause severe rectal 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 inflammation of the area or 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 a 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 have usually prescribed OTC medications like pyrantel pamoate, mebendazole, etc. However, a pediatrician might suggest an age-appropriate treatment option, such as antihelminthic medication for your baby. The doctor may also recommend treatment to the whole family since the contagious pinworm infection 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.
- Follow proper hygiene practices such as showering or giving a sponge bath to the baby 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 to prevent re-contamination. 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. At what age do babies get dewormed?
Deworming interventions for intestinal worm infections, such as pinworms, are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) beginning at 12 months of age. However, some studies suggest that deworming can begin as early as six months (9).
2. Can babies get pinworms in their poop?
Yes. Pinworms can be found in the bowel movements (poop) of an infected baby (3).
3. Can bananas cause worms in babies?
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.
Infographic: How To Manage Pinworms In Your Baby At Home?
Pinworms are common intestinal parasites that can affect people of all ages. However, they are most common in young children. If your baby has pinworms, it is essential to get them treated as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading to others. Here, we have provided some simple and effective tips to help you manage pinworms in your baby.
- Almonds are a great source of iron, calcium, folic acid, and fiber for those without nut allergies.
- Soaked almonds (one oz. daily) are considered better than raw almonds nutritionally.
- Eating almonds during pregnancy can reduce the risk of neural defects and help in bone development in the fetus.
- Almonds also help in managing weight and enhance metabolism during pregnancy.
- Excessive consumption of almonds may lead to weight gain, allergic reactions, bloating, or constipation during pregnancy.
Learn about pinworm infection, its causes and treatments in this fun and informative video for kids! Discover the life cycle of pinworms and how to prevent them.
- 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.
- Serene A. Joseph et al.; (2015); The Effect of Deworming on Growth in One-Year-Old Children Living in a Soil-Transmitted Helminth-Endemic Area of Peru: A Randomized Controlled Trial.
- Starting Solid Foods
- Abhinandan Patil, et al.; (2020); Banana fibers camouflaging as a gut worm in a 6-month-old infant