The most common type of “skin worm” is the ringworm. The problem is, ringworm isn’t a worm at all. It’s a fungus that forms a circle shape on the skin, hence the name “ringworm.” Ringworm comes from dermatophytes or microscopic organisms. The organisms consume the dead outer layers of the skin. The fungus also grows on the hair and nails. On the skin, it can look like the infected person has a worm growing underneath the skin. Other symptoms of ringworm include sores, itching, and reddened skin. Ringworm can appear on any area of the skin, even in the groin area or the feet.
Another type of worm that could possibly end up on the skin, although it cannot survive there, is the pinworm. Pinworm is easy to contract through infected food and water. Pinworms can be easily passed from an infected person to a non-infected person through bathroom stalls and dirty hands.
Pinworm is the most common type of parasite infection in the United States and Europe today. While pinworm is most often found in kids, it can occur in adults as well. Humans become infected with pinworm after drinking water or eating food contaminated with pinworm eggs. Pinworm eggs are ovoid on one side and approximately .55 mm x .25 mm in size. The eggs can last for twenty days in most moist environments, even sewage.
The pinworm belongs to the family Oxyuridae, order Oxyuroidea, and the phylum Nematoda. Pinworms are classified as Enterobius vermicularis. Threadworms are also classified as Enterobius vermicularis. Pin worms are also called “seatworms” and they have several spellings including “pin worm,” and “pin worms.”
The adult pinworm, is small, white, and has a threadlike appearance. It develops in the body’s large intestine and lays its eggs in the anal region. The female pin worm can lay up to 15,000 eggs. While some people will not experience any symptoms of pinworms, others will experience mild to moderate symptoms. The most common symptom of pinworms is itching around the anus. The itching worsens at night when the female pinworm lays her eggs on the infected person. If the itching is too much to bear, the infected person may scratch. If the person does not wash his hands, it is possible that he can touch or scratch another area of the skin, leaving pinworms behind. Again, the pinworm won’t survive on bare, dry skin for long. It needs a dark, moist (not wet) environment to survive.
Pinworms rarely cause symptoms in other areas such as the vagina or urinary tract as these areas are constantly being flushed/cleansed with urine. If the pinworm does somehow make its way into the vagina or urinary tract, which is extremely rare, any irritation will go away on its own along with the pinworm. The pinworm just can’t survive in these areas. Because pinworms are easy spot, they are easy to detect. They are most active at night, so this is the best time to look for them. Pinworms can also be seen on the outside of the infected person’s stool.
There are several pinworm treatments on the market today. According to MedicineHealth: “Albendazole (Albenza) is the most common treatment for pin worms. Treatment is a single tablet, which kills the worms. There are different strengths for adults and children younger than 2 years. To lessen the chance of reinfection, the infected person will have to take a second dose two weeks after treatment. Pinworm eggs can survive for a few weeks. Other treatments such as Mebendazole (Vermox) and pyrantel pamoate (Pin-Rid, Pin-X) also work. They are also taken in a single dose and repeated 2 weeks later.”
There are several things that must be done after treatment (and beyond) to prevent reinfection. The treated individual should:
Avoid biting the fingernails
- Clean and vacuum play areas and continue this practice indefinitely
- Get into the habit of thoroughly washing the hands after using the bathroom, before and after eating, and before preparing food
- Launder all bedding every 3-7 days for 3 weeks
- Make sure the child or infected person changes his/her underwear daily
- Thoroughly wash all bedding, clothing, pajamas, and toys with hot water and soap to destroy any lingering eggs
- Wash underwear and pajamas daily for 2 weeks
If you or your child has been treated for pinworms and you (and your child) have carefully followed all of the steps listed above and your symptoms return, do not get discouraged. It is common for individuals, especially children, to become reinfected several months or so after being treated for pinworms. If this happens, call your doctor to get started on another round of treatment immediately.
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