How to Get Rid of Pinworms and Itchy Anus
Pinworms in Anus Area
Pinworms are human parasites that live in the intestine. They are small, white, and round, measuring between one-tenth of an inch to half an inch. They live between two and eight weeks.
For women, pinworms can occasionally (but rarely) migrate from the anus to the vagina. Pinworm infection is common, striking people across all economic levels. It is estimated that at any given time some 10% of the U.S. population is infected with pinworms, and an even higher percent in other countries.
Getting rid of a pinworm infection can be daunting. There are many treatment approaches and this article summarizes the different options, which range from medication to strict personal and household hygiene practices.
Pinworm Infection Symptoms
• Itching around the anus sometimes accompanied by a feeling of something wriggling on the skin. Itching occurs mostly at night.
• Insomnia and restlessness due to itching.
• Vaginal discharge (rare).
• In children—loss of appetite, weight loss, irritability, inability to control urination.
How Does Someone Become Infected with Pinworms?
A person becomes infected with pinworms by ingesting pinworm eggs. This can happen after contact with a contaminated person, food, or surface area. The pinworm egg is translucent and so small that it is invisible to the human eye except when many are clumped together.
Once swallowed, pinworm eggs hatch in the small intestine and travel to the large intestine where they mate. The male dies after mating and is passed out in the bowels. The female becomes filled with eggs (between 11,000 and 16,000) and makes her way to the opening of the anus in order to get the oxygen she needs to complete reproduction. Her presence at the anal opening causes severe itching experience for the infected person. After depositing her eggs at the anal opening, the female dies.
Once on the infected person’s hands, the contamination can spread to toilet seats, bathroom fixtures, toys, clothing, and other people. Through contact with contaminated hands, surfaces, or food, the pinworm eggs enter a new human host and begins a new lifecycle. For this reason, thorough washing of hands, clothing, and surfaces are all important in treatment.
A pinworm infection can last indefinitely unless it is interrupted with drugs and strict hygiene. With proper treatment, however, some infections are cured in four weeks. Others may require up to a year to disappear.
• Check toilet paper after wiping the anus to see if any adult pinworms are present.
• Alternatively, take some scotch tape and stick it to the anal opening, then pull it away and look for adult pinworms.
• It's best to check for pinworms at night when the female tends to travel to the anal opening.
Diagnosing Pinworm in Bowel Movement
Treating a Pinworm Infection
The key to treating pinworms is to interrupt the worm's lifecycle. Pinworms are a hearty breed and difficult to kill. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs, combined with strict hygiene, are the most effective ways to get rid of this parasite. It’s important to treat the entire household, even those persons who aren’t infected. If you're pregnant or breast feeding, talk to your doctor before taking over-the-counter medication.
- Medication for the entire family. There are over-the-counter and prescription drugs available at the pharmacy: Pin-X and Reese's are just two examples. Pinworm drugs generally require a second dose two weeks after the first one. The instructions caution against taking more than two doses, but some people take four doses (one dose at a time, each two weeks apart) to prevent re-infection. Consult your doctor before deviating from the instructions that come with the pinworm drugs.
- Regular bowel movements. Eat a handful of pumpkin seeds (shells and all) with each meal and in between meals. It will keep your bowel movements regular, flushing many or most of the pinworms out. Diatomaceous earth (DE) is another natural way to help regularize bowel movements. DE is said to be lethal to microscopic parasites but is harmless to humans. Be sure to buy food grade diatomaceous earth.
- Bathe twice daily. Take a shower in the morning (showers are best because pinworms are immediately washed off the body and down the drain) and again in the evening before bed. Pay particular attention to the anal opening, using soap and allowing water to wash soap and pinworms away. Be sure to use fresh, clean bath cloths and towels. Wash used cloths and towels in very hot water with a good laundry soap.
- Clip fingernails short and practice strict hand washing. Keep yours and your children's nails short and wash hands using a nail brush every time you use the bathroom. Hand contamination is a key component of the pinworm lifecycle, so hand decontamination is a major part of treatment.
- Wash hands before every meal. You never know when you’ve contacted a contaminated surface. Do not break this rule. Always wash your hands before each meal and teach your children to do the same.
- Change and wash bedsheets every day for the first month. At night, the pinworm eggs that were deposited at the anus opening may spread to pajamas and bedsheets. Changing nightclothes every night and bedsheets every day is an important step in interrupting the pinworm lifecycle and preventing re-contamination. Use hot water. Pinworms are not easy to kill but hot water is the only confirmed way to get rid of them.
- Don’t scratch! Nighttime is the worst. If your children are infected, you may want to cover their hands at night to prevent scratching in their sleep. The incessant itching can be maddening, but resist the urge to scratch. When you scratch, you’re helping the pinworm complete it’s lifecycle. They get under the fingernails and spread to other surfaces from there. Also, scratching can cause a rupture in the pregnant female pinworm, causing her eggs to spill out and begin their lifecycle.
Relieving an Itchy Anus
The itching is caused by wriggling female pinworms that come to the anus opening to deliver their eggs. Plug up the opening. Some people insert a clove of garlic (apparently pinworms don’t like garlic) directly into the anus opening. Others push toilet tissue into the anus. If you use tissue, coat it with a little oil or petroleum jelly to prevent chafing.
Clean Your Home
Even if the infection did not begin in your house, your home will be contaminated by the time you realize someone in the family is infected. Use a good soap and hot water. You could try a germicide or antibacterial soap, but it is not certain that even a 50% bleach and water solution will kill pinworms and their eggs.
A recent research paper on sterilization recommends peroxide and vinegar as a very effective method of sterilization. Spray undiluted peroxide on the surface, then spray undiluted white vinegar on it. Immediately wipe clean. This method has been proven to kill nearly all germs and bacteria. It's more effective than either peroxide or vinegar alone. And it's even safe for kitchen countertops. In addition to washing surfaces with soap and hot water, use the peroxide and vinegar spray (before or after soap and water) to ensure a clean, sanitized surface. It doesn't matter whether peroxide or vinegar is sprayed first.
When you first realize there’s a pinworm infection:
- Clean the entire home top to bottom including toilets, fixtures, counter tops, door knobs, light switches, and floors. Clean the kitchen, bedrooms, and all of your children’s toys with soap and hot water.
Daily for the first month of infection:
- Change bed sheets every day. Change into clean nightclothes every night. Clean the children’s toys every day. Vacuum carpets and sofas daily. It’s probably a good idea to clean sink fixtures and counter tops daily as well, especially if you have small children who have not yet learned to wash their hands frequently. After the first month, relax and return to weekly cleaning of your home and bed sheets.
More Pinworm Information
- Pinworm Infection: MayoClinic.com
A comprehensive overview of the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of a pinworm infection.