Pinworm is an intestinal infection caused by tiny parasitic worms. One of the most common roundworm infections, pinworm infections affect millions of people each year, particularly schoolchildren.
But if your child develops a pinworm infection, don't worry. Pinworms don't cause any harm (just itching), and it won't take long to get rid of them. And people who have pinworms aren't dirty — kids can get pinworms no matter how often they take a bath.
How Pinworm Infections Spread
Pinworm infections (also known as "seatworm infection," "threadworm infection," "enterobiasis," or "oxyuriasis") are contagious.
People become infected by unknowingly ingesting microscopic pinworm eggs that can be found on contaminated hands and surfaces, such as:
clothing (especially underwear and pajamas)
desks or lunch tables at school
The eggs pass into the digestive system and hatch in the small intestine. From the small intestine, pinworm larvae continue their journey to the large intestine, where they live as parasites — their heads attached to the inside wall of the bowel.
About 1 to 2 months after a person acquires the pinworm eggs, adult female pinworms begin migrating from the large intestine to the area around the rectum. There, they will lay new pinworm eggs, which trigger itching around the rectum.
When someone scratches the itchy area, microscopic pinworm eggs are transferred to their fingers. Contaminated fingers can then carry pinworm eggs to the mouth, where they are reingested, or to various surfaces, where they can live for 2 to 3 weeks.
If you're wondering if your family pet could give your child a pinworm infection, it can't. Pinworms don't come from animals.