Pinworms in children are most common at the toddler and preschool stage. And what are pinworms? They are half-inch, threadlike worms that are thankfully harmless, but they can be the cause of sleep problems that come out of nowhere.

Usually, a child suddenly awakens 20-40 minutes after falling asleep, crying or even screaming and complaining of rectal itching or pain.

How do I know if my child has pinworms?

If you suspect your kid has pinworms, the symptoms are:

  • Itchy anus (especially at nighttime)
  • Restless sleep caused by irritation and discomfort
  • Vaginal itching in girls 
  • Irritability and fussiness
  • Episodes of abdominal and tummy pain

How to check for pinworms in kids

To check for pinworms in kids:  

  • Bring in a flashlight and look at his anus
  • Check for little white threadlike worms
  • Put some soothing ointment on his bottom
  • Wash your hands immediately after
  • Call the doctor in the morning

How do kids get pinworms?

Kids commonly get pinworms since they are highly contagious and are spread through schools and playgrounds. Children can get and spread pinworms if they:

  • Accidentally swallow or breath in the eggs of pinworms from surfaces or food that have been contaminated with them
  • Touch a contaminated surface, then touch their face or mouth. It is ingested and the eggs mature in the intestines
  • Scratch the infected region (anus), the eggs will transfer under their fingernails and transfer to surfaces they touch

How do you treat pinworms in children?

According to the CDC, “the medications used for the treatment of pinworm are either mebendazole, pyrantel pamoate, or albendazole.” Ask your doctor if medication would be warranted for your child and all family members, except babies. The next morning—after taking the medicine—immediately give your tot a good washing. Scrub his bottom and his fingernails, too, because scratching the anus will deposit microscopic eggs under the nails where they can later be spread to toys and other people. Then, wash your child’s sheets, blanket and pillowcase in hot soapy water to rid them of any eggs.

Should a Child with Pinworms Go to School?

No. Pinworms in children are very easy to spread, and you don’t want them to spread between family members for months. Pinworms in children also spread quickly in school and day-care settings. Be sure to tell your school about the worms, so other parents can be informed.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.