What to do if you find out your child has threadworms

With a diagnosis of threadworms, treatment is advised for everybody in the household, says Dr Michelle O'Driscoll
What to do if you find out your child has threadworms

Threadworms are highly contagious. Picture iStock, posed by models

LAST week’s article was about dreaded headlice, so staying with the theme of common childhood infestations, that actually aren’t exclusive just to children, today’s column is about threadworms — another pleasant topic of conversation!

Threadworms are tiny worms present in poo. They are more common in childhood due to lack of hygiene skills, and very easily transmittable. They can be picked up from pets, from other children in nursery, and are passed on when the eggs are swallowed, with a re-transmission rate of 75% amongst households, indicating just how contagious they are.

While they are not usually overly harmful, the symptoms experienced are not pleasant so you will want to combat them sooner rather than later.

What may first alert you to their presence is extreme itching and discomfort around the back passage or vagina, caused by the mucous that they release, which is often worse at night time because that is when they come out. This can lead to irritability, increased waking and general disease. The skin in the area can become inflamed and irritated from the itching, and rarely there may be some weight loss or bed wetting associated with them. Close inspection will reveal that you can actually see the little white threads in the poo, or around the back passage.

With threadworms, treatment is advised for everybody in the household, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not, and should be a combination of medication and hygiene measures.

Treatment is easily obtained in the pharmacy in most cases, in the form of a tablet or a liquid depending on the ages being treated. It works by preventing the threadworm from absorbing glucose so it eventually starves within a few days. A repeat dose is often advised.

Always ask regarding treatment for those under two years of age, or if pregnant or breastfeeding. Fasting or laxatives are absolutely not effective ways of treating threadworms.

Treatment with medication is straightforward, but doesn’t treat the eggs which can live outside the body for up to two weeks, so actions that you can take to prevent reinfection are easy and effective but important:

Washing hands fully and regularly, paying particular attention to the nails — particularly before eating, after using the bathroom or after changing a nappy.

Keeping fingernails short, and discouraging biting of nails or thumb sucking, as often eggs can be in under them.

Clean and disinfect surfaces, especially in the kitchen and bathroom in case any eggs remain there.

Bathing or showering first thing every morning is the best way to eliminate eggs from the area

Washing sleep wear, bedsheets, towels and underwear at a hot temperature will ensure that no eggs have been left behind.

Making sure that children wear underwear at night and change them carefully in the morning.

While threadworms are not commonly spoken about, they are a very common ailment particularly in children, so do not be embarrassed asking for further advice from your pharmacist, who will guide you as to how best to treat it. Employing the above advice will minimise the risk of reinfection and break the cycle that the eggs can create.

Persistence and meticulous hygiene is key, and will reduce the time spent in discomfort due to the presence of threadworms.

Treatment is advised for everybody in the household regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.

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