Threadworms (2024)

Threadworms (pinworms) are tiny worms in your poo. They're common in children and spread easily. You can treat them without seeing your GP.

How to check for threadworms

You can spot the worms in your poo. They look like pieces of white thread.

You might also see them around your child's bottom (anus). The worms usually come out at night while your child is sleeping.

Threadworms (1)

Other symptoms can include:

  • extreme itching around the anus or vagin*, particularly at night
  • irritability and waking up during the night

Less common signs of worms include:

  • weight loss
  • wetting the bed
  • irritated skin around the anus

A pharmacist can help with threadworms

You can get advice from your pharmacist about treatment for threadworms. You can buy medicine for threadworms from pharmacies, or get it prescribed by your GP.

This is usually a chewable tablet or liquid you swallow.

You should treat everyone in your household, even if they don't have symptoms.

Tell the pharmacist if you need to treat a child under two, or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Treatment might not be suitable and you may need to speak to your GP instead.

Things you should do at home

Medicine kills the threadworms, but it doesn't kill the eggs. Eggs can live for up to two weeks outside the body.

There are things you can do to stop becoming infected again.

These include:

  • washing hands and scrubbing under fingernails, particularly before eating, after using the toilet or changing nappies
  • encouraging children to wash hands regularly
  • bathing or showering every morning
  • rinsing toothbrushes before using them
  • keeping fingernails short
  • washing sleepwear, sheets, towels and soft toys (at normal temperature)
  • disinfecting kitchen and bathroom surfaces
  • vacuuming and dusting surfaces with a damp cloth
  • making sure children wear underwear at night – changing it in the morning
  • not shaking clothing or bedding, to prevent eggs landing on other surfaces
  • not sharing towels or flannels
  • not biting nails or sucking thumbs and fingers

You don't need to stay off school, nursery or work if you have threadworms.

How threadworms spread

Threadworms spread when their eggs are swallowed. They lay eggs around your anus, which make it itchy. The eggs get stuck on your fingers when you scratch.

They can then pass on to anything you touch, including:

  • clothes
  • toys
  • toothbrushes
  • kitchen or bathroom surfaces
  • bedding
  • food
  • pets

Eggs can then pass to other people when they touch these surfaces and touch their mouth. They take about two weeks to hatch.

Children can get worms again after they've been treated for them, if they get the eggs in their mouth. This is why it's important to encourage children to wash their hands regularly.

More useful links

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information seeterms and conditions.

Threadworms (2024)


How bad are threadworms? ›

Large numbers of threadworms may possibly cause mild abdominal (tummy) pains, and make a child irritable. Very rarely, threadworms can cause other problems. What precautions must I take? Medicine will kill the worms in the gut, but not the eggs that have been laid around the anus.

How hard is it to get rid of threadworms? ›

You can treat threadworm with a single dose of medicine available over-the-counter from the pharmacy. To prevent the spread of threadworm, treat the whole family at the same time and encourage good hygiene.

Can you starve threadworms? ›

Mebendazole acts by stopping the threadworms from absorbing vital nutrients such as sugars while they are in the gut, which leads to the starvation and death of the worms within a few days.

What to do if threadworm treatment doesn't work? ›

Visit your pharmacist if the infection continues two weeks after treatment. They may recommend a second dose of medication. In rare cases, mebendazole can cause abdominal pain or diarrhoea, particularly if the threadworm infection is severe.

Do threadworms crawl out? ›

Check if it's threadworms

You can spot threadworms in your poo. They look like pieces of white thread. You might also see them around your child's bottom (anus). The worms usually come out at night while your child is sleeping.

Do threadworms come out dead? ›

Yes, it is normal to see dead threadworms in the persons bowel motions. Depending on the frequency of bathroom visits this can take up to one week. Symptoms of threadworm infection usually disappear within one week of treatment. Threadworms are highly contagious.

What do dead threadworms look like in poo? ›

You can spot the worms in your poo. They look like pieces of white thread.

Can you feel pinworms move? ›

It moves. If it doesn't wiggle, it's probably lint or a thread. The worm may be seen around the anus or on the child's bottom.

Do threadworms go away with good hygiene? ›

Strict hygiene measures can be used to clear up a threadworm infection and reduce the likelihood of re-infection. The life span of threadworms is approximately six weeks, so it is important that the hygiene measures are followed for six weeks.

Is it embarrassing to have threadworms? ›

Parents tell us they feel worried and embarrassed when they or their child have worms. Worms are very common and easy to catch, but luckily they are also easy to treat. Worms like threadworm and ringworm are really common in the UK.

Does yogurt get rid of pinworms? ›

This can be very effective in getting rid of pinworms and will help prevent any further recurrence of pinworms. Eat probiotic foods, such as yogurt and buttermilk, or take probiotic supplements. The good bacteria found in these foods offer a natural protection against harmful organisms such pinworms.

Can you see threadworms moving? ›

You may be able to see threadworm if you examine your child at night. Take a torch, separate your child's buttocks and look carefully around the anus (and the opening to the vagin* in girls). You might see tiny white threads that may be moving.

How long do pinworms stay paralyzed? ›

“So the medication means the parasites are not able to stay in the place they want to.” Martin said previous studies may have missed this paralysis effect because it lasts for only a few hours, maybe four or five, before it wears off and the parasites resume their normal level of activity.

What happens if you've had threadworms for years? ›

What happens if threadworms are left untreated?
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin infection around the bottom (from scratching)
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Bedwetting

How do you get rid of stubborn threadworms? ›

Mebendazole is an effective treatment. Tell the family to keep their nails short and wash their hands and scrub their nails after using the toilet and before meals. These precautions will help prevent a recurrence. Wash underwear and night-wear daily to destroy the eggs.

What can happen if you have threadworms for a long time? ›

What happens if threadworms are left untreated? 'Severe or persistent threadworms can cause reduced appetite, weight loss and bedwetting, as well as a risk of skin infection around the anus due to itching/scratching. '

Can threadworms live in your lungs? ›

Pinworms or their eggs have occasionally been detected at other sites, such as the liver and lung.

Do you get threadworms from being dirty? ›

Infection is spread through worm eggs on contaminated surfaces. Threadworms can be avoided by practicing good hygiene, such as washing your hands after going to the toilet and before eating food. Wash all clothes, bed linen, towels and soft toys on a regular basis.


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