Health Matters: Threadworms

Uppermill pharmacist IAN STRACHAN offers some top tips for dealing with threadworms.

Ian Strachan headshot
PHARMACIST: Ian Strachan

THREADWORMS ARE the most common type of worm infection in the UK, being particularly common in children under the age of 10.

Threadworms are white, resembling small pieces of thread, and you may notice them around your child’s bottom or in their stools. They don’t always cause symptoms although itchiness around the bottom or vagina especially at night is a feature.

SYMPTOMS

I have observed parents who have spotted threadworms on bedclothes or sheets or even in stools. When threadworms are severe, they can lead to loss of appetite, even weight loss, skin infection around the anus, and difficulty getting to sleep. I would recommend the wearing of cotton gloves if itching is a problem to avoid infection.

CAUSES

It is passed from person to person as a result of swallowing threadworm eggs. A female threadworm may lay thousands of tiny eggs around the anus or vagina. Scratching or wiping after using the toilet can result in eggs becoming stuck onto your fingertips or under finger nails. Failing to wash the hands can result in eggs being transferred to your mouth or onto food or objects and the cycle of infection starts again.

TREATMENT

I recommend all household members are treated even if they have no symptoms as the risk of spreading is high. This involves a combination of medication to kill the worms and strict hygiene measures to stop the spread.

Treatments are available from your local pharmacy and are highly effective but do seek the advice of your pharmacist as to their suitability.

Medication works by preventing the threadworm absorbing sugar, which means they should die within a few days. This medication is 90-100 per cent effective at killing the threadworm but it doesn’t kill the eggs. This is why hygiene measures are so crucial and should be continued for six weeks.

If you are pregnant or breast feeding, I would strongly recommend visiting your GP and parents should always consult their doctor for children under 2 years with suspected threadworms.

HYGIENE MEASURES

  • Wash all nightclothes, bed linen, towels and soft toys when diagnosed. This can be done at normal temperatures but do ensure washing is well rinsed.
  • Thoroughly vacuum and dust the whole house, paying particular attention to bedrooms and repeat regularly.
  • Carefully clean bathrooms and kitchen by damp dusting surfaces and wash clothes frequently in hot water.
  • Avoid shaking any material that may be contaminated – this helps prevent eggs being transferred to other surfaces.
  • Don’t eat food in the bedroom as you may end up swallowing eggs that have been shaken off bed clothes.
  • Keep fingernails short and encourage other household members to do the same. Discourage nail biting and sucking fingers.
  • Wash hands frequently and scrub under fingernails, particularly before eating, going to the toilet and before changing your baby’s nappy.
  • Wear close-fitting underwear at night and change your underwear every morning.
  • Bath or shower regularly, particularly first thing in the morning and pay attention to the anus and vaginal regions to eliminate any eggs.
  • Ensure all members of a household have their own face flannel and towel.
  • Keep toothbrushes in a closed cupboard and rinse them thoroughly before use.

Finally a common question asked by parents is does my child need to avoid school? It is not necessary to stay off school or work but it would be important to inform the school in order to limit the spread of infection.

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