Worms, while mostly harmless, are highly contagious, with children commonly picking up worm infections from school or daycare. While children are more likely to catch worms than adults, a worm infection can easily spread through an entire household. When we talk about worm infections we’re usually talking about the most common type caused by pinworms/threadworms. Here, we discuss common threadworm symptoms, as well as symptoms to look out for in your children.
The best way to confirm if your child has worms is to look for them. While the adult worms are pretty small – only about 1 cm long – and mostly live in the intestines, the females emerge from the anus to lay their eggs on the skin around the anus, usually during the night. So you may be able to see these worms moving around the anus at night or find some in your child’s underwear or bedsheets the next morning.
Additionally, your doctor may ask you to do a ‘sticky tape test’ to confirm whether your child has worms. This involves pressing a piece of sticky tape on the skin around the anus first thing in the morning to collect a sample of any eggs that were laid during the night. The tape is then examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of worm eggs.
The most common of worm symptoms is an itchy bottom at night. That’s because the worms exit the anus and lay their eggs on the surrounding skin, causing itching. Other common signs that your child may have worms include:
– Disturbed sleep, which may lead to bedwetting
– Reduced appetite
– Restlessness and irritability
– Grinding teeth
– Stomach pain, nausea or vomiting
– In girls, there may also be redness and itching around the vaginal area.
Sometimes, there may be no symptoms at all, so keep an ear out for notifications of worms in your child’s school or daycare. Remember, even if no one else in the family is showing signs of worms, then it is key to treat the entire household at the same time and ensure good hygiene practices to help prevent the continued spread of worm eggs and avoid reinfection.
There are a number of other types of worms that can infect humans. These include hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm. Luckily for us, these infections are not as common here. In Australia, they are more likely to occur in tropical areas across the northern parts of the country and can also be brought back from travellers returning from countries where they are more common.
Hookworm infections can result in skin irritation where the larvae enter, mild cough or throat irritation when the larvae head to the lungs and stomach, and some stomach or digestive tract issues when they reach the intestines.
Most roundworm infections don’t cause symptoms, but sometimes breathing issues can occur when the larvae are moving around within the body and some intestinal or organ problems can arise when there are adult worms in the intestines.
While most whipworm infections don’t cause symptoms, more severe infections can cause unpleasant and sometimes serious digestive tract problems such as diarrhoea.
Yes, sometimes children do not show any symptoms when they have a worm infection.
Once your child has started treatment for worms, it is not necessary to keep them home from school or childcare unless they are experiencing diarrhoea or vomiting. Parents or carers might be asked to inform their child’s daycare or school if the family is being treated.
Worm infections often produce no symptoms and in most cases worm infections are harmless, with the most common symptom being an itchy bottom at night.
In most cases worm infections are harmless and can be easily treated.
Treating the worm infection is the best way to stop symptoms.