Turning the worms
When children are cranky during the day and restless in sleep at night, parents (and grandmothers, in particular) are often suspicious that worms are the culprit. Complaints of an itchy bottom are the clincher.
Before treating a child on the ‘off chance’ be sure of the diagnosis, because management is more involved than usually thought.
Worms that commonly inhabit humans are threadworms, small moving white threads about 5mm in length. These hatch from eggs laid in the anal region by adult female worms, that have previously been swallowed as eggs and hatched in the intestine.
The cycle usually takes about two weeks. The itching is caused by the sticky eggs inflaming the skin (not the moving worm!)
There is an easier way to check your child’s rear end than sneaking in at the dead of night, torch in hand. Push a piece of clear sticky tape against the anus first thing in the morning, before washing. Examine it closely or bring the evidence directly to your doctor, when the real fun of eradication begins.
As well as prescribed medication, or recommended pharmacy preparations, which everyone in the house must take, all clothing worn next to the skin, all bedlinen and towels must be washed.
Vacuum bedroom and bathroom areas and floor coverings. Trim and brush fingernails clean, especially children’s, as eggs can survive for up to two days outside the body and re-infect the family.
It’s a good idea to review and reinforce hand washing habits as well, but you can leave Rover or Pussy alone – contrary to popular myth, they don’t get threadworms.
The information provided in this article is intended as a guide only. Always consult your doctor if you or your child is suffering any medical complaint. Any websites referred to by Australian Family contain information moderated by government and medical institutions or organisations.
This article was first published in Australian Family Magazine, May 2001. Updated July 2009.