What is Threadworm and How Can I Treat It?

Everything You Need to Know About Threadworm

Threadworm is a common infection that can affect children and adults, causing uncomfortable itching and worms in places you’d rather not have them.

If you’re worried about your child picking up threadworm, or whether you might have it yourself, then you’ve come to the right place.

Today we’re going to look into all things threadworm and answer your most asked questions about these annoying little worms.

What is threadworm?

Threadworm, which is also known as pinworm, is an uncomfortable condition that’s usually more common in children than adults.

It happens when your large intestine become infected with little, parasitic threadworms, making you feel uncomfortable and itchy.

You may not notice any symptoms right away, but if you or your child have threadworm then you may wake up more at night, or notice the worms in your poo.

What are the causes of threadworm?

Threadworm happens when you eat threadworm eggs, or somehow transfer them into your mouth.

These eggs then move into your large intestine, where they’ll hatch and begin laying eggs around your anus.

These eggs can survive for 2 weeks before hatching, when the cycle begins again.

Threadworms can make your bottom very itchy, and if you scratch you can get the threadworm eggs onto your fingers or beneath your fingernails, which can then spread to other surfaces or into your mouth again.

You can also get these eggs onto your clothes, towels, bedsheets, and more throughout the day, so if one member of your family gets threadworm then you may soon find that it’s spread through the entire family within just a couple of weeks.

What are the symptoms of threadworm?

Threadworm has one tell tale symptom that’s more noticeable than the others, and that’s (you guessed it) the threadworm itself.

Threadworms look like small, white strings of thread, which is where they got their name, and you may notice them in your poo after you’ve been to the toilet.

If you think your child has threadworm, you should check around their bottom in the morning, as these small worms may come out overnight as your child is asleep.

Other symptoms of threadworm include intense itching around the anus or vagina, which may feel worse at night.

You may also feel irritable or wake up frequently in the night. Some less frequent symptoms of threadworm include weight loss, wetting the bed, or irritation around your bottom.

What do threadworms look like?

As you can imagine, taking a picture of a threadworm is no easy or enjoyable task.

Don’t worry, we’ve not picked out any of the worse pictures of threadworms for you, (trust me, they aren’t pretty!) but if you keep scrolling, you’ll see a picture of these little thread-like worms.

Don’t like worms? Make sure you scroll really fast and keep your eyes closed for this next bit!

How can I treat threadworm?

Threadworm is usually treated with a medication called mebendazole, which is a type of medication known as anthelmintics.

Anthelmintic medications work as an antiparasitic, which means that mebendazole will kill threadworms, being 90 – 100% effective with every treatment.

However, mebendazole and other antiparasitic medications can’t kill threadworm eggs, which means you’ll need to keep an eye on your personal hygiene for at least 6 weeks after taking your first treatment and may need to take a second dose if your doctor advises that this will work for you.

Can I get threadworm treatment over the counter?

You can buy some threadworm treatments, like Ovex tablets and suspensions, over the counter from your pharmacist.

These remedies are suitable for both adults and children, but you’ll need to answer some questions before you’ll be able to buy this medication.

This is the same in both online pharmacies and high street pharmacies, and helps your pharmacist to be sure that they’re giving you the right treatment for your illness.

If they don’t think a specific treatment is right for you or your child, then they’ll be able to recommend another treatment that will help.

Are there any natural threadworm treatments?

There aren’t any natural remedies that work for threadworm, but there are some things you can do to keep the infection under control.

These things mostly revolve around personal hygiene and breaking the cycle of infection that keeps a threadworm infection around.

For starters, you should try to keep yourself from scratching, as threadworm eggs can stick underneath your fingernails and be transferred to your mouth or onto other surfaces.

One way you can keep yourself from scratching is to wear underwear when you go to bed at night, keeping you from scratching in your sleep.

Make sure to change your underwear, pyjamas, and bed linen every day if possible, you should also make sure that children’s soft toys are washed every day or so.

You should keep your fingernails short until the infection has passed, and make sure to scrub them clean at least once a day to keep eggs from sticking beneath them.

Make sure to wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially before preparing food or eating, and wash around your anus thoroughly in the bath or shower first thing every morning.

You should also make sure to vacuum the whole house every day for 2 weeks after you’ve been diagnosed, and dust your home with a damp cloth to make sure you’ve cleared away as many of the eggs as possible.

Are threadworms contagious?

Threadworms are contagious, as their eggs stick to surfaces and skin quite easily, and can be spread from place to place easily as a result.

This is why you may need to treat your whole family for threadworm if one person brings home an infection, and also explains why threadworm is usually more common in children, who are less careful with their personal hygiene.

What if I get threadworm when I’m pregnant?

If you’re pregnant and think you have tapeworm, then you should speak to your doctor right away.

You won’t be able to take mebendazole, as it isn’t suitable for use during pregnancy, but your doctor may prescribe another treatment for you instead.

They’ll also recommend that you take strict care of your personal hygiene to make sure that you don’t swallow any more eggs or spread the infection to other members of your family.

When should I see my doctor?

You usually won’t have to go and see your doctor if you have threadworm, as treatment from your pharmacist is usually enough to deal with the infection.

However, you should go to see your doctor if you’re pregnant and have threadworm, or if you have a child who is younger than 2 and has threadworm.

Children younger than 2 may be prescribed a medication called piperazine, which is suitable for children who are older than 3 months, but this should only be given under medical supervision.

Well, we’ve covered all of your most popular questions about threadworm, but if you’ve still got questions, don’t hesitate to call one of our Chemist 4 U pharmacists!

You can get in touch via email, social media, over the phone, or even through our Ask A Pharmacist feature, and our pharmacy team will get back to you as quickly as possible with an answer.

We’re only the push of a button away!


Laura Henderson - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 17 September 2021
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