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10:37 AM

4 Things Every Parent Should Know About Pinworms

The Doc Smitty talks diagnoses and treatment

Kids itch their bottoms.

On a recent interview with the Joel McHale Show, Kristen Bell described an episode in her family that highlights one common cause: pinworms.

If you haven’t seen the video, I highly recommend you watch it because, it’s actually pretty accurate; and, despite the fact that she uses a word near the end that’s a little too mature for Anna, she somehow manages to make having pinworms adorable in a way that only Kristen Bell can.

How do children get pinworms?

Kids usually get pinworms from eating foods or touching contaminated surfaces and then placing their hands in their mouths. The eggs are small enough to become airborne and swallowed.

So, like she says in the video, they are highly contagious.

How do you know if you or your child has pinworms?

Most infections with pinworms don’t cause symptoms (especially in adults) but the most common symptom is anal itching. Kids will sometimes itch so badly at night that they don’t sleep very well. Other sites of infection can occur and there can be enough worms to cause abdominal pain but these are both rare.

How do we diagnose pinworms?

Pinworms are formally diagnosed when the symptoms are present and the worm is seen - either around the anal area, on the outside of the stool or toilet paper. The worm are about ¼ inch long and thin like a piece of thread-but are often moving.

If you see the worms or the child has a known exposure to someone with pinworms and is showing symptoms, it’s reasonable to assume that they have them and proceed with treatment.

If you’re not sure, and you want a test to check, some recommend placing a piece of clear tape around the anal area first thing in the morning in an attempt to collect some eggs or worms-the Scotch tape test.

How do we treat pinworms?

The easiest, cheapest means of treating pinworms for kids over 2 years of age is pyrantel pamoate. It is available over the counter and is given in doses, one dose now and another dose in 2 weeks. If your child is under 2, consult your doctor.

Household members and caregivers of the child should also be treated. Avoid co-bathing during the 2 week period. Taking a daily shower and washing clothes in hot water can help prevent reinfection.

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.

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