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The most common worm infection in Australia is known as the ‘pinworm’ or ‘threadworm’. The worms actually look like white threads, thus their name. 



People become infected after unknowingly swallowing pinworm eggs that are hidden under fingernails, or touching contaminated bed linen or clothing. Pinworm eggs can survive up to three weeks. A pinworm infection can affect anyone, but is more common in children as they tend to put their fingers in their mouths. After being swallowed, the pinworm eggs travel to the gut where they mature and hatch. Pinworms come out of the anus at night to lay their eggs which causes itching. As the child scratches their anus, they transfer the tiny eggs under the fingernails, further spreading the condition.



Symptoms of pinworms include itchiness around the anus, irritability from poor sleep, reduced appetite and possibly feeling mildly unwell.



Itching around the anus, especially at night is suggestive of a pinworm infection. An infection is confirmed by identifying the worm or its eggs, which may be seen around the anus area or on the contaminated clothing or bed linen. The eggs can be collected by using sticky tape around the anus area for the eggs to stick onto it. This is usually done first thing during the night with a torch, or first thing in the morning, as showering can wash the eggs away.



Although ‘worms’ are annoying, they are not generally serious and easily treatable. Treatment for a pinworm infection can be sought from your doctor. As the infection is easily spread through human contact, it is suggested that all household members be treated at the same time. Reinfection can occur easily, so good hand hygiene is essential. Washing your hands before and after eating or dealing with food, and after going to the toilet should be practiced. Contaminated clothing, toys or bed linen should be washed in hot water, and items such as hand towels and bath towels should be changed frequently to prevent reinfection.



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