By Dr Quince Mwabu
A NINE-YEAR-OLD accompanied by her mother presented to the children department with itching and prickling pain in the anal area usually at nighttime and in the early morning. After physical examination, the anal area showed a pinworm.
PINWORM is an intestinal worm infection. Pinworm infections are also known as enterobiasis or oxyuriasis, they are thin and narrow worms.
They’re white in colour and less than a half-inch long. Pinworm infection occurs most often in school-age children, and the tiny (microscopic) eggs are easily spread from child to child.
Pinworm infection is spread from person to person. Pinworm infection is caused when tiny (microscopic) pinworm eggs are accidentally swallowed, usually by contaminated food, water or drink including inadequate hand washing by the parents and children.
Once swallowed, the eggs hatch in the intestines and mature into adult worms within a few weeks.
Pinworms do not often cause symptoms; however, you may suspect that you or your child has a pinworm infection if you notice the following symptoms;
- Frequent itching of the anal
- Insomnia due to anal itching and discomfort
- The presence of pinworms in the anal area of your child
- The presence of pinworms in stools
Children; Pinworm infections are most likely to occur in children ages 5-10 and can spread to family members, caregivers and to other school children.
Crowded spaces; individuals who live in institutions or other crowded accommodations, such as dormitories are prone to pinworm infection.
Pinworm usually does not cause serious problems, but in rare circumstances, heavy infestations can cause infection of female genitals.
The pinworm infection can travel from anal to the pelvic organs including the vagina, fallopian tubes and uterus causing inflammation.
To prevent pinworm infections and reinfections is to follow recommended hygiene routines. Wash hands well using soap and warm water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before handling food is the most successful way to prevent pinworm infection.
Wash bedding, towels, and undergarments in hot water. Always wash hands before eating. Sanitise hard surfaces. Showering is preferred over bathing.
Teach children about the importance of hand washing and dissuade them from biting their nails. Pinworm eggs may survive on surfaces for up to two to three weeks.
Pinworm treatment may involve prescription and over-the-counter medications. One course of medication usually involves an initial dose, followed by a second dose two to three weeks later. More than one course may be necessary to fully eliminate the pinworm eggs.