Getting Rid of Pinworms

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A Smelly Remedy for a Yucky Problem

Garlic head on a cutting board.

Garlic is an age-old home remedy for pinworms. Studies on its effectiveness are scarce, but it’s worth a try.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Warning: Gross-out level 8/10.

Someone on the Homestead Survival Facebook page asked me, if there’s no way to get to a doctor, how does a person get rid of pinworms? Good question. There are plenty of home remedies, but there’s little objective proof they work.

Garlic for Pinworms: Worth a Try(?)

Using garlic is an age-old remedy for pinworms. We know it kills the worms and eggs through direct contact in a lab, but that’s different than going through the digestive system. The only study I could find using the stuff in a person showed a seven percent cure rate. Even the authors were surprised and suggested further study, but I found none.

I suspect some reasons for the lack of studies are: (1) There are good pharmaceutical cures, such as prescription mebendazole and over-the-counter pyrantel (not to be taken if pregnant). (2) No one’s going to pay for a study using garlic. (Is there a Garlic Association?) (3) A pinworm infestation is not considered life-threatening. But I hear it can make your butthole itch like crazy. They like to come out at night, so that can certainly mess with your sleep.

Two Steps to Killing Pinworms at Home

So, what do you do if you can’t get the medicine? I’ve done a little research, and here are some suggestions for getting rid of those nasty creepy crawlies.

First, it helps to know the pinworm life cycle: You ingest or inhale a bunch of eggs (where there’s one, there are hundreds); they hatch in your intestine, have sex, the males die. In about two to three months, the females crawl out your anus and lay eggs—up to ten thousand per worm. Then, the females die.

Wait a couple of hours after bedtime, and you can usually see a few worms with a flashlight. Just spread the cheeks, and you’ll see what looks like little half-inch pieces of wiggly thread. The wiggling causes the itching. Sometimes you can see the same thing in a bowel movement. If someone has a microscope, you can stick a strip of clear tape next to the anus, rip off the tape, and see the eggs under low power.

Getting Rid of Pinworms, Step 1: Ingest a Killer.

The mebendazole or pyrantel kills the worms, and either works well. Take another dose two weeks later to kill the new worms that have hatched. Pinworms are easy to get, so everyone in the house is going to need to be treated at the same time.

If you don’t have medication, try the garlic. You can eat the cloves if you dare, or sprinkle it on food. The book Where There Is No Doctor suggests you crush or finely chop four garlic cloves and mix in milk, water, or juice. Drink one glass four times a day. Again, everyone must be treated.

Eating pumpkins seeds is another home remedy.

Getting Rid of Pinworms, Step 2: Groom and Wash.

This is also your best bet to avoid reinfection, even if you took the medicine.

Remember the life cycle: eggs out the butt, ingested back into the mouth. That’s much easier done than you would expect. In fact, it’s a sure thing if you don’t take precautions. And it can take three months from ingestion to egg laying.

So.

Everyone’s going to have to do this for three months:

  1. Clip fingernails short. At night, everyone’s going to scratch. Clipping will help keep those microscopic eggs from getting under the fingernails and avoid damaging your skin at night.
  2. Wear snug-fitting underwear to keep the worms from getting on bedsheets.
  3. First thing every morning, wash the rectal area with soap and water. In hot water, wash underwear, bed linens, and anything else that might have been exposed. If you have the resources, vacuum the area. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  4. Apply petroleum jelly around the rectum at night. It helps the itching. If you have garlic, add a little to the jelly to kill the eggs.

How to Keep Pinworms Out in the First Place

You get pinworms from other people. The eggs are not just in the outdoor air floating around. Your best bet to avoid getting them is to avoid anyone with symptoms and avoid anything that person might have touched. Many times that’s not an alternative, so:

  • Don’t sleep in the same bed with someone who has pinworms.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently. Wash for thirty seconds. Be sure to clean under your fingernails.
  • Consider wearing a surgical mask if you’re the one having to clean up. Wash your hands immediately after cleaning.
  • Avoid touching your face. It’s such a habit that that’s almost impossible, hence the frequent washing of the hands.
  • If the medicine is available, and there’s no reason not to, take it and make sure everyone else does as well.

If anyone has any experience with these treatments or others, I’d love for you to comment.

**Update: I’ve answered your FAQs about pinworms here.**

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  • Steven

    Pinworms and hookworms.. as a child I was told I was infected with them because I kept going barefoot in the cattle pen. Could be.
    I remember home remedies with some trepidation… dose of kaopectate chasing a paste made of a crushed garlic bud with flowers of sulfur.
    And the old remedy for getting rid of roundworms was to swallow a penny. Supposedly the copper kills the roundworms. You can’t do that any more since pennies are copper plated zinc these days.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Steven, thanks. And yes you can get hookworms by going barefoot. The larva can penetrate the skin.

  • Laurie Allen

    I had them years ago and when I realized that part of the life cycle was coming our and laying eggs, I folded some toilet tissue like a pad. I folded it in half and put it between my butt cheeks against the anus for several days. Only had to do it at night in bed. Never bothered me again. Interrupt the life cycle. I’ve also started washing my hands much more than I used to.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Laurie.

  • Max

    They kept coming back until I took a serious look at my gut health. Here is how I fixed it: I started a regimen of Intestinew. I may have had leaky gut, but in conjunction with taking a probiotic pill each morning, the worms didn’t come back. (Knock on wood). You need to figure out how you are getting reinfected. The number one reason is by itching and not washing your hands properly afterwards. It’s very important that the worms not come out to lay eggs. Every night I used coconut oil suppositories either with garlic (ouch!) or with essential oils of tea tree, oregano and cloves.
    If you keep getting reinfected and you are sure the worms are not coming out because of the suppositories, you need to think about who prepares (touches) your food with bare hands. Another family member? The deli down the street? Just think about it and maybe change your eating habits for awhile. Good luck everyone!

  • cam

    I tried all the medicine and my 12 yr old still has them do you think its because he picks his nose and eats it

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      More than likely, he’s getting them back from a classmate/friend/family member who hasn’t been treated.

  • Patty

    OK I have had pinworms for six years because I just thought that it was from my allergies or something I had no clue what it was. Some nights it is very hard to sleep. I find things that stop the itching are filling up a bath tub with hot water then first wash your butt very good. Then sit in the hot water until the water gets cold make sure your butt hole is showing. Every day I do this i sleep very well at night because there is no itching. What also helps it not thinking about the itching when it is itching.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Thanks, Patty. Sounds like you and your close contacts need to be treated.

  • Cate

    I am a mother to two small children (4 years & 19months), and t complicate matters even further I just found out that I’m pregnant (4weeks). the kids and I both have and they had their first dosage of pin-x yesterday, but what about me? what can I do?

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Do your best with preventive measures and call and talk to your doctor about treatment options.

  • taylor

    ive had these things 4 times and this is my 5th time i tried telling my parents they took me to the doctor and the doctor didnt do anything about it. it has been 3 years now ive had these things i gave up trying to get rid of them. they have been getting worse as the days go on i have no clue why this keeps hapening to me over and over again. every time i have had them i have had tons of blood in my stool. when i was a kid i had two appendixes and i had them both removed, could this surgery have anything to do with this.

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      No, I doubt it. And blood in the stool is not a typical symptom. You should go back to the doctor. And remember, if you’re coming into contact with someone who has them, you really have to follow the precautions even more. Also here’s another post http://www.thesurvivaldoctor.com/2013/03/14/how-to-treat-pinworms/

  • Lauren

    Ugh I am 22 years old and have had these worms for years, seriously, I think the first time I noticed them it was in like elementary school. I tried a few years ago to get rid of them, using Reese’s Pinworm Medication and it didn’t work or I screwed up and reinfected myself accidentily. well, i’m about to move ina few days to a place i’ll be sharing with others and I am terrified they will be infected and get mad at me for infecting them too. I live with my family and I don’t think anyone else has gotten them, no one has tried any treatments and my stepmom is a nurse, no doubt she would’ve started all of us on one if she had gotten them. Is it possible that I cant spread it? And what will work for me since I’ve had it so long?

  • helpme163

    i am a 12 year old girl …..apparently cranberry juice helps to get rid of them but i am too scared to drink it just because im scared of what it feels like when they come out …i discovered i had them yesterday and burst into tears…stilll recovering now….i am a fussy eater so most things are not an option for me….i dont like liquid medicenes only tablets…..i live in ireland …and im scared shitless ////…what am i supposed to say ” hey mom i think i have pinworms , do you think you could go down to the pharmacy and get me some medication, hey hey you have to take it too and help clean the entire house to clean eggs that ive touched ” …i know i got them from my hands because i also ALWAYS have my hand on my mouth…..but i always wash my hands ….i guesss that cant be helped ….can you please help me ? i feel discusting and dirty ////…and i dont want to go to the doctor becuase he’d look at my anus….im shy and feel alone and didnt sleep last night because of those revolting creatures ….the most scary thing is what does it feel like ? any one who knows and has expierienced the coming out of the pin worms and could tell me what it feels like …feel free to email me at … xtraacount163@gmail.com

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      I’ve probably had a hundred girls write me, all worried about telling their parents. The ones that write back typically are relieved they did and wish they had sooner. Sooner or later you have to tell your parents. Many people, including adults, get pinworms and most always it has nothing to do with being dirty. As far as I know cranberry juice doesn’t help get rid of them. Here’s another post. http://www.thesurvivaldoctor.com/2013/03/14/how-to-treat-pinworms/

      • helpme163

        i told and took a tablet called vermox …nothing happened …i took it 3 days ago and haven’t made a shit yet ( yuck ) ….what should i do now ? ive only taken 1 ….

        • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

          Have you told your parents?

  • ENERAK OCNAY

    I have organic Diatomaceous Earth in the house, but it says it’s not for human use. Was about to start taking it, too. Can someone shed some light on why animals can take it, but not humans?

    • http://thesurvivaldoctor.com/ James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Don’t know the answer, other than the manufacturer didn’t make it for human use or doesn’t want the liability if something goes wrong.