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About worms in kids

Worms are a type of parasite.

Children can get threadworms when they accidentally get worm eggs on their hands and swallow them. This might happen if they come into contact with people with worms or with worm-infected dust, toys or bed linen.

Once swallowed, the eggs get into children's small intestines, where they hatch and lay more eggs around the anus. This can make children's bottoms very itchy. Sometimes worms get into girls' vaginas and make this area itchy too. If children scratch their bottoms and then touch their mouths, they can swallow the eggs again, causing this cycle to repeat.

If children touch things around the house without washing their hands, the eggs might spread to other people in the house too.

Worms in kids: signs and symptoms

Most threadworm infections won't cause any symptoms at all. But some children might have:

  • itchiness around the bottom and/or vagina, which is usually worse at night
  • redness around the bottom area
  • restlessness.

Some rare symptoms include:

  • visible worms - small, white and 8-13 mm long (often mistaken for bits of toilet paper!)
  • stomach pain
  • vulvovaginitis
  • nausea and vomiting.

Does your child need to see a doctor about worms?

If your child has any of the signs and symptoms of worms, it's a good idea to see your GP.

Tests for worms in kids

Your GP will probably use the 'sticky tape test' to check for worm eggs or worms.

This involves putting sticky tape over your child's anus, removing it and then putting it onto a glass slide. When the doctor or another professional looks at the slide under a microscope in a laboratory, they can see whether there are any worms or worm eggs.

It's best for your child to have this test early in the morning before he has a bath or does a poo and wipes his bottom.

Treatments for worms in kids

Threadworms in kids are easy to treat and usually aren't serious.

Your GP will probably tell you to give your child a dose of antiparasitic tablets, which you can get over the counter from a pharmacy. Your child usually needs to repeat the dose after two weeks to make sure all the worms are gone.

If your child is diagnosed with threadworms, you should treat everyone in the household with antiparasitic tablets too. This stops the spread of worms between family members. It's also a good idea to keep your child home from school or child care while she has worms, to stop worms spreading to other children.

Unfortunately, the eggs spread easily and it's common for infections to come back.

Prevention of worms in kids

There are several ways to help prevent the spread of worms:

  • Thoroughly wash hands after going to the toilet and before handling food.
  • Cut fingernails regularly.
  • Try to encourage your child not to scratch around his bottom or suck his thumb or fingers.
  • Treat everyone in the family with antiparasitic tablets when someone in the family has worms.
  • If you or your child has worms, regularly wash her clothes and bed linen in hot soapy water every day for up to several days after treatment.
  • Clean toilet seats and potties regularly.
  • Encourage your child to take a shower or bath every day (morning is better to help remove eggs).