Getting Rid of Pinworms

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This survival-medicine website provides general information, not individual advice. Most scenarios assume the victim cannot get expert medical help. Please see the disclaimer.

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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  • Amber

    Hello…. I’m 16 years old and female, and It distresses me to say that I’ve once again been afflicted with these horrid creatures. This is perhaps the 8th time I’ve been infected in my life and I just want to make them go away for good and never ever come back. It’s terrible feeling so stressed. I’m a junior in high school so I’m forced to interact with people (who very well may not be clean) on a daily basis…. It seems that they come back every few months, however I think I was fortunate enough to go a year and a half without them. I use PinX as soon as they arrive but they won’t STAY away… Is there any advice that will keep these things away for good?? Please someone with knowledge of the topic respond as soon as possible….

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

      Amber, have you read this post also? http://www.thesurvivaldoctor.com/2013/03/14/how-to-treat-pinworms/
      Be sure to note the sidebar.

      If you’re getting rid of them for many months and get them back, you must be getting re-exposed to someone who has them. What about the rest of the family?

      • Amber

        It’s just me and my mother, she’s a clean-freak germaphobe who washes her hands every half hour or so. So I don’t think they’re from her, she herself would’ve taken notice. Thank you for your help, regardless. I’ll continue to follow with better hygiene and extra awareness. I’ve taken PinX as I have before, the problem usually ceases after the first night or two for me. Thank you very much for your insight.

  • Courtney

    Ive had pinworms before when i was about 10 years old… I wsa so embarassed and scared to tell my mam that i kept it a secret for nearly a year. When i finaly told her and i got the medicine it only reduced the itchiness. Im now 15 and well they’ve came back, i want to tell my mam again but im scared. Its stupid because i know they need to be gone, i wash my hands all time and ive been trying to cut down on sweets and sugary foods. At the moment i dony really want the medicine, it only kills the worms not the eggs so its going to constantly be coming back. So does the garlic and juices actually work? I’m just worried. I go to college soon and i really badly dont want to have these pesky things while im there.

  • sam

    I dont know how to tell my parents and honestly I dont want to. How can I get rid of them, without them noticing?

  • didi1963

    fighting pin worms– am I re-infesting myself by smoking cigarettes??

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

      Why would that reinvest you?

  • mandy

    I am 14, please be someone active on this post… I definitely have pinworms and I am so scared… I AM NOT going to tell my parents (sorry) bc I don’t feel comfortable teeling them PLEASE tell me ways to get rid ofr them!!!!

  • Josh

    I have pinworms but I’m afraid to tell my family because this is the 4th time and I feel like they will be mad what do I do???

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

      So many have similar concerns about the family when it comes to this. It’s not your fault. You have to tell them. And everyone in the family needs to be treated at the same time. Here’s another post.

  • David

    I took 3 1/2 tsp. of Pin-X as directed but found out my anal itching wasn’t due to pinworms. Are there any negative consequences to taking the unwarranted medication? Should I be worried? Thanks.

  • Kat Grrl

    Wormwood kills pin worms and other parasites much more effectively than garlic. A simple tincture preferably but a strong decoction will work too. It is still essential to treat everyone that is sharing your living quarters. It breaks my heart reading the comments on here from children who are afraid to tell their parents they think they have pin worms. If the whole family is not treated the worms will come back. And maybe some of the adults reading this should ask themselves why a child might be afraid to tell and do they instill that level of fear in their own children.

  • Aleesha

    My daughter has had pinworms off and on for the last 5 months. Its about to drive all of us insane. She has been through the PinX dose and the 2nd dose about 4 times now and we did treat the whole family, went through the whole routine, etc. It seems from your previous comments that there is a prescription medication? Her pediatrician has told me that there is only the pinX now, and I can’t help thinking there MUST be something stronger? WE have tried all the natural remedies too, except for the Dicatemous Earth?

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

      The prescription medicine mebendazole (brand name Vermox) was taken off the market but albendazole is still available. Also, you might be interested in my other post on pinworms here http://www.thesurvivaldoctor.com/2013/03/14/how-to-treat-pinworms/

      • Aleesha

        Thanks, I have read the other post. I will speak to her doctor again. Thanks.

  • Helen

    Would garlic powder work the same with the petroleum jelly?

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

      I’m guessing it would.