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What Are Worms?

There are many different types of worm infection, but they generally cause only minor illnesses.

These include:

  • Thread worms - also known as pin worms. They're tiny (about 1cm long), pale, thin worms that look like cotton threads and thrive in the intestines.

  • Roundworms - also known asnematodes, are larger, some look more like garden worms and also live in the intestines. They are less common than thread worms.

  • Tapeworms – also known as cestode, are long ribbon-like worms that can be caught from under cooked meat and fish and contaminated water.


The main symptom of thread worms is itching around the anus or vulva. This is worse at night when the worms come to the skin surface to lay eggs. The worms may also be seen on faeces.

Round worms usually do not cause any symptoms although they the toxocara canis worm can lead to visual problems when they migrate to the eye and cause inflammation and scarring of the retina. The worms may also move to the lungs, causing a cough and asthma, and lead to swelling in other body organs.

Tapeworms may cause vague abdominal symptoms. They may become encysted in muscle, skin, heart, eye and brain.

Causes and risk factors
Threadworms are usually passed on by poor hygiene. Children easily pick up threadworms from each other through contact with skin or objects contaminated with the eggs of worms. These enter the mouth and grow into adult worms in the gut.

Poor hygiene, particularly not washing hands after using the toilet, is a major factor in the spread of infection.

Exposure to cat and dog faeces can cause toxocara worm infections. Pregnant women and children should steer clear of litter trays and always wash their hands after contact with pets
Tapeworms can be caught from pets and occasionally when children accidentally swallow a dog flea infected with the worm.

Threadworms can be diagnosed by seeing the worms in or on faeces, or by collecting a sample of their eggs by pressing a small strip of sticky tape to the skin around the child's anus as soon as they wake in the morning.


  • Have your child seen by his or her doctor.

  • Anti-parasitic drugs are used to treat threadworms, and a single dose may be all that is needed. All the family should be treated at the same time.

  • Toxocara worms can be diagnosed using a blood test, but need specialist investigation and treatment. Anti-parasitic drugs are used for this and other worm infections.

  • Careful hygiene can reduce the risk of worm infections. Pets should be wormed regularly and the garden kept clear of faeces. Children should wash their hands after playing with animals and be taught not to put soil into their mouths.

Pin worm is an intestinal infection caused by tiny parasitic worms. One of the most common roundworm infections, pin worm infections affect millions of people each year, particularly children.

But if your child develops a pin worm infection, don't worry. Pin worms don't cause any harm (just itching), and it won't take long to get rid of them.  People who have pin worms aren't dirty — Children can get pin worms no matter how often they take a bath.  

How Pin worm Infections Spread

Pin worm infections are contagious.  People become infected by unknowingly ingesting microscopic pin worm eggs that can be found on contaminated hands and surfaces, such as:

  • bed linens and towels

  • clothing (especially underwear and pajamas)

  • toilets and bathroom fixtures

  • food

  • drinking glasses and eating utensils

  • toys

  • kitchen counters

  • desks or lunch tables at school


​The eggs pass into the digestive system and hatch in the small intestine. From the small intestine, pin worm larvae continue their journey to the large intestine, where they live as parasites — their heads attached to the inside wall of the bowel.

About 1 to 2 months after a person acquires the pin worm eggs, adult female pin worms begin migrating from the large intestine to the area around the rectum. There, they will lay new pin worm eggs, which trigger itching around the rectum.

When someone scratches the itchy area, microscopic pin worm eggs are transferred to their fingers. Contaminated fingers can then carry pin worm eggs to the mouth, where they are re-ingested, or to various surfaces, where they can live for 2 to 3 weeks.

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