Threadworms are small, thin, white cotton-like worms that live in the gut. They are common in children, but may infect all household members and are not usually harmful. At night, the worms lay their tiny eggs around the anus which causes itching. Scratching to relieve the itching whilst asleep can make the area sore and severe cases can cause the child to be irritable. Infection may spread to the vagina in girls which can result in a discharge. Often there are no symptoms.

The usual treatment is for the whole family to take a medicine to kill the worms. You can get this from your local pharmacy. You should also take the following hygiene measures for two weeks after treatment:

  • Wear clean underpants or pyjamas at night.
  • Bath or wash around the back passage (anus) each morning.
  • Change and wash bed linen, nightwear, cuddly toys every few days.
  • Keep fingernails short.
  • Wash hands and scrub under fingernails every morning, after using the toilet, changing nappies, and before eating.
  • Make sure everyone uses their own towel and flannel.

Most cases can be treated at home but seek medical advice from your pharmacist if:

  • Your child has frequent infections.
  • Treatment does not stop the itching after three weeks.
  • There is a general loss of appetite or weight loss.

Find out more at the NHS website

Last modified: 

10 Sep 2018