an itchy situation:
how to treat threadworms

Like head lice, the mere thought of threadworms can send a shiver through you. They can be very itchy, and affect sleep and appetite. Threadworm in babies and children is pretty common though, and nothing to be ashamed of.

baby with threadworms

what are threadworms?

Threadworms are tiny, parasitic worms that can live in the large intestine. Sometimes called pinworms, they look a bit like a strand of white cotton. The females come out to lay their eggs at night, around the anus.[2] These eggs can then take two to six weeks to hatch into worms. Threadworms are easy to catch, and thankfully they’re pretty easy to get rid of too.

how do i know if my child has threadworms?

An itchy bottom is the main symptom particularly at night which can disturb sleep. Severe or persistent threadworm infections can cause:[1]

  • itching around the bottom or vagina
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • wetting the bed
  • difficulty sleeping
  • skin infection around the bottom caused by scratching

Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. You might spot the threadworms in your child’s pants, bedding or poo.[1]

how do children get threadworms?

If a child scratches, they can catch the eggs in their fingernails. These eggs can then be passed to other people on toys, food, towels and so on. Good hand washing can help reduce the risk of getting them. Try to encourage your child to wash their hands really well after going to the toilet, and before eating. It’s also best to keep their nails quite short, and to discourage thumb sucking (not always easy, we know).

how can i treat my child’s threadworms?

In most cases, you’ll just need to pop in to see your pharmacist for an over-the-counter remedy, however if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or your child is under two, you’ll need to see your doctor. Threadworms are very contagious, so you’ll need to treat all family members at the same time. You’ll also want to make sure you kill any eggs, by giving the house a really good clean. Wash all bedding, soft toys, night clothes and towels as well.

are threadworms dangerous?

Threadworms can be very annoying, but they’re not usually harmful. Occasionally they can spread to other areas of the body, including the vagina, and cause a bit of discomfort.


[1]. Threadworms, NHS, December 2017

[2]. Understanding and treating parasites, Emma's Diary, [Accessed May 2019]