How are worms spread?
Worms spread from human-to-human – they're not spread by family pets or other animals. Worms live in a person’s gut, but at night they leave the gut and lay eggs around the infected person’s anus (bottom). Children can catch worms by swallowing their eggs.
An infected person can also spread worms by:
- poor hand washing after using the toilet
- scratching the affected area
- improper food handling.
Worm eggs can also be on your carpets, bed linen, towels, flannels and household dust, and can spread from person-to-person.
The most common symptom you’ll notice in your child is an itchy bottom, which is usually worse at night. However, you may not always know your child has worms.
Sometimes, you’ll be able to see the worms in your child’s poo, or on the toilet paper. They are typically small, thin, white worms that are between 2-13 mm long.
Most kids that have worms can be treated at home through proper hygiene and medication from a pharmacy.
You can pick up worm medication (like mebendazole) from your local pharmacy. This will kill the worms in your child’s gut, but it won’t kill any eggs that have been laid around their bottom. Eggs can survive for up to two weeks outside the body (in underwear, bedding, and dust) so proper hygiene is important.
- All household members – including adults and even people without any symptoms – need to be treated with the worm medication at the same time.
- Two doses of medication is recommended– one dose to start and another dose two weeks later.
If your child has worms, make sure they:
- wash their hands properly (for at least 20 seconds) and dry them thoroughly
- avoid scratching their bottom
- bathe regularly
- change their underwear everyday
- keep fingernails short.
You can also:
- wash your child’s clothes and bedding regularly
- avoid sharing a bathtub or face cloths with other family members
- vacuum your carpets often.
The best way to prevent worms is through proper hygiene.
Regularly wash clothes and bed linen in hot soapy water for several days after treatment and make sure that your child:
- washes their hands properly (for at least 20 seconds) and dries them thoroughly
- avoids scratching their bottom
- bathes regularly
- changes their underwear every day
- keeps fingernails short.
When to visit a doctor
See you doctor if:
- your child is under two years old, as treatments are different for young kids
- you are pregnant or breastfeeding and you have worms.
If you are worried about your child’s worms, or aren’t sure what to do, call PlunketLine.