How to Treat Pinworms: FAQs

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How to Treat Pinworms: Your Most Common Questions Answered

How to Treat Pinworms: Your Most Common Questions Answered | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I wrote a post on how to treat pinworms a few months ago and have had so many comments and questions that I thought I’d answer some of the most common here. You’ll still need to read the older post. This just adds to it.

Here, I’ll address embarrassment, complications, vaginal pinworms, and why the pinworms can keep coming back.

Question #1: I’m so embarrassed. I don’t want anyone to know, even my family. How can I treat pinworms without telling anyone?

You must, at least, tell your family. There’s no way around it. As you can see from the answer to question 2, everyone in the family must be treated. Many are embarrassed because they think they’ve done something wrong or will be perceived as being dirty. But even the cleanest person can get pinworms.

Here are some facts to consider: In the United States, about ten percent of the population (all ages) has pinworms right now. This goes up to about twenty percent in young people and can hit fifty percent in groups (like schools) if pinworms are going around.

Question #2: Why can’t get I rid of these little critters? I treat them, and a few weeks or months later, they come back (or never go away).
Key Points to Emphasize
  • There is a lag of a month or two between the time you ingest the eggs and when you start having symptoms (and become contagious).
  • The worms lay their eggs at night.
  • The eggs are microscopic, light, and sticky, and can end up just about anywhere.
  • The eggs can last outside your body for up to three weeks.
  • One dose of the over-the-counter or prescription treatment (mentioned in my other post) kills the adults but not the eggs. You repeat the dose two weeks after the first to kill any worms that have hatched. Usually that and cleaning is enough.

To treat pinworms, ideally, you must have an understanding of their life cycle:

  1. You ingest the eggs that have come from another person.
  2. After a couple of weeks, the eggs hatch in your intestine.
  3. After another month or two they become adults and mate.
  4. In a few more weeks, the males die and the females crawl out your anus, usually at night, and lay thousands and thousands of microscopic eggs. Why do they crawl out? The eggs need more oxygen than is in your intestine. Why at night? I don’t know, but it becomes important in treatment.
  5. After the worms lay their eggs, most shrivel up and die. Some travel back into the intestine, but it’s unclear how many. And no matter what, they all die within about thirteen total weeks max.
  6. The wiggly worms itch; you inadvertently scratch in your sleep. Now they’re under your fingernails.
  7. The eggs are very, very tiny and almost as light as air. But they have a sticky quality to them also. So they get attached to your underwear, your sheets. Some even float in the air, and you can breathe them in. They don’t affect your lungs, but you can swallow some.
  8. They have to get into your intestine to hatch and grow into adults and start the cycle all over again.

Other things you can do (see my older post for details) include:

  • Apply a little petroleum jelly and maybe a little garlic around your rectum at night to kill the worms and eggs.
  • Wear fairly tight fitting underwear to bed so the worms won’t scatter as much.
  • First thing in the morning, take a bath. Wash your underwear in hot water.
  • Wash your bed sheets and vacuum every day, at least for a few days after taking the first and second dose of medicine.
  • Wear a dust mask or scarf around your face and nose while cleaning.
  • Open the curtains. The eggs don’t do as well in sunlight.
  • Wash hands with soap and water, and clean under the fingernails.
  • Clip fingernails short.
  • Keep your fingers out of your mouth as much as possible.
  • Treat everyone in the family at the same time, unless there’s a reason not to (such as pregnancy). Many people with pinworms have no symptoms but can still spread the eggs.
  • Wash all toys, change the sandbox, wash the toilet and the doorknobs. Wash the pets. (Humans can’t get the type of pinworms animals have, but some human pinworm eggs can get on animals’ fur.)
  • Consider that you or your family member may be getting them from other people. If pinworm infections are going around daycares, for example, they are very to eliminate for good.
  • As a last resort, talk to your doctor about everyone in the family taking a medicine daily for a month. Don’t do this without your doctor’s consent. Even then, you can get them back after you’re finished with the medicine, if you come in contact with someone who hasn’t been treated.

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Question #3: Can pinworms cause complications?

Other than rectal itching and the sleep disturbance caused by it, complications of pinworms are very rare. Some people can have abdominal pain, and it can cause an infection in the intestine, but that’s extremely rare.

Question #4: What about vaginal pinworms?

Pinworms only live in the intestine. However, when they come out the anus to lay eggs, some can crawl into the vagina. Rarely, they can even get into your uterus or fallopian tubes. Even occasionally they can get in your urethra (bladder opening).

But they cannot live long in any of those places. They don’t reproduce there and they die. So pinworms in those areas are short-lived at best. However, while they’re there, rarely, they can cause inflammation, even scarring. And you could get a bacterial infection (even rarer) since these aren’t exactly the cleanest critters around.


As long as you’re around others with pinworms (remember they may not even know it), the worms may be impossible to eliminate. Sooner or later, you’ll be away from those people, and the pinworms will live out their cycle and die. Meantime, fortunately, the complications (other than itching at night) are rare.

One more thing: There are many other causes of rectal itching. If itching persists despite treatment, check with your doctor to rule out the multiple other causes. It may even be you’re getting irritated from whatever topical medicine you’re using to treat them.

Hope this answers some of your questions about how to treat pinworms. Can anyone add any advice? If so, please comment.

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  • muzafar

    hi ..i got worms in my body its about three years but i felt three months ago and i got married one year and half my wife so many times went to doctor to be pregnant and having baby but it was useless three days ago my wife said she saw pinworms in her monthly blood that come out from vagina my question is—— is the pinworms the reason for she didn’t getting pregnant ? while i really would like having a baby

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Any inflammation or infection that has resulted scarring of her fallopian tubes could cause problems for her getting pregnant. However, as I note in answer to question #4 in the post, even if pinworms get into the vagina, it is very rare that they would be the cause of any inflammation and scarring in the tubes. Your doctor could better answer if there is scarring for any reason, and if that might be the cause of not being able to get pregnant.

      • muzafar

        thanks a lot for your answering my question dear doctor James Hubbard

    • muzafar

      im waiting

  • hopeless mom

    I know this is an older post but im desperate for help. I have pinworms and my 11 month old baby has them. Been to pediatrician, did 2 rounds of OTC meds, following all extended cleaning rituals and dietary and herbal remedys and using every trick in the book external an internal.. I am so ill. My lil baby is suffering im finding them on him in the daytime as well, my skin has rash too. Im depressed and so agitated im snapping out on every1 and have no energy anymore to keep up w all of this.. The symptoms appeared a month ago for both of us, all family members and entire home treatedcleaned. No other family member showing the same symptoms as the anal itch and worm findings but we have all kept getting sick for many months.. I went ti ER w baby and they say they cant do anything for child under 2 and to go back to pediatrician who has been useless.. No answers and no solutions. This is insain. My baby getting bathed too much but its necessary. Im hopeless. Defeated. Marriage suffering. Sick. Lost.. Is this baby gonna have to live like this till hes 2? To b treated? Im confused. Some1 help. Please lord Jesus I need help. I been researching everything everywhere and spent all my money on diet and herbs and laundry soap and so on. Help?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Pinworms are usually more of a nuisance than a health danger. In other words, yours and your baby’s health is likely to suffer much more from your worry and possible overtreatment than from the pinworms. As far as I know, pinworms don’t cause a rash. Bathing your baby too much is not going to help and could cause skin problems. First, make sure that pinsworms is the problem. A doctor could could do a simple scotch tape test on you and the baby to look for the eggs. If if there are eggs, all your and your baby’s symptoms may not be coming from them. Talk to your doctor or assistant about the actual symptoms you or your baby are having to try to figure out the cause and how to treat those symptoms.

      • hopeless mom

        Ty for the help. Its seems like pinworms from seeing them. I mentioned the rash bc i have something that fits morgellions descriptions and i too have the worms and i read some articles on another type of roundworm that goes into the skin into the bloodstream and out the anus like pinworms and thought it could he that.. Unfortunately the Drs are no help as i get creams that dont work, my skin has stuff comming out of it, strange patterns of discolored brown and grayish looking spotted rash on my side, i took the tape to his pediatrician and told her and showed her and got no real answers except what i already know. I called for a follow up appt. I wonder if i have leaky gut syndrom and maybe thats ehy i feel sick but my son is really just uncomfortable as his but hole is always having worms come out. Im waiting for dr to call but even she said be hes under 2 yrs old its hard to treat. So do pinworms resolve themselves then or does he have to have them for a whole year to wait for treatment? And is clove tea safe for him? I heard it helps. And ive also read of people having had this for years and it never goes away and they too tried everything.. How so? Its hard to keep my mental health up when im so sick of cleaning so much and my but itching n cant sleep and finding these things everywher is depressing and disturbing. Plz see if u can help me w any answers. I would feel better. Thanks again. Really.

        • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

          If worms are coming out your baby’s anus, take the baby to the doctor and show her/him the worms coming out. They can tell you the type and what to do. Perhaps, at the same time, you should talk to them about your anxiety, depression and seemingly constant worry about the worms to see if they have some advice for you to handle that. I wouldn’t try any more home treatments on the baby since they’re very likely to do more harm than good.

  • wesley

    I found online that it is bad to put anything as suppository in the anal area especially at night when they are releasing their eggs in the anus. It is because when they are interrupted in releasing the eggs in the anal area they will be releasing the eggs inside the body is that true? this is very worrying.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      Wesley. No, I’ve never heard of that. I’m not sure why it would be worse even if it’s true.

  • Hi

    I got rid of them without telling anybody…without going to a doctor.

    • hopeless mom


    • muzafar

      ok tell us how ?

  • Hannah

    Do these worms burrow in the anal area in an attempt to lay their eggs when petroleum jelly is present? I have sensitive skin and it is causing massive discomfort in that area.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      They live in the intestine and travel to the anal area to lay eggs. They’re not known to burrow under the skin

  • Rema

    Hello, My 20 month old and my 5 yr old have pin worms. My son was treated with medicine. I saw pinworm on my daughters stool. But since she is a baby, the doctor suggested Stool test. But it came out negative for parasites ( Which is surprising since I saw wiggling worms on my daughters stool 3 times about 15 days before the test). Can the worms go away on its own (Since the test was done about 15 days after I saw the worms). Since the test is negative, doctor will not prescribe any medicine for her. Is there any home remedies I can do for my baby just to be sure?

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      The usual test for pinworms is the tape test where some clear tape is applied next to the rectum and the tape is placed under the microscope to look for eggs. If you have a doctor you trust, he/she will usually know what’s best for your baby (individual treatment). Or you could get a second opinion. In general pinworms are more of a nuisance than a danger. Reasons to treat would to stop the itching (which could cause sleep problems) or because any contacts with the baby (including you and your son) will not be able to stay rid of them until everyone is treated. Here is a post on remedies. The comments are also very helpful.

  • Sarah

    My daughter has pinworms in her vagina, and it hurts her at night. I removed one pinworm but I’m afraid there may be more. We took Mezendole? yesterday, I hope it will work soon. But I know the medicine won’t work in vagina, how can I help my daugther when it hurts?
    Also, we shower every morning, cleaned everything, change bedding everyday, wash hands before eating and after toilet, nails cut too.

    • ensampappa

      Its useless with mebendazole for vaginal pinworms, unless you use mebendazol straight into the affected area, however consult your doctor first. Albendazol has generall effect in the body, mebendazol has local effect (more or less). Mebendazol manytimes has zero effect, and so can also albendazol have. In most cases its transformed and broken down very fast in upper gastric tract.

    • James Hubbard, MD, MPH

      I cover pinworms in the vagina in question 4. If you can’t look and be sure there are no dying or dead worms in there, and get them out. Perhaps you could get a healthcare provider to look.

  • Frustrated and desperate

    I am having a REALLY hard time getting rid of pinworms. I am in the US and have taken several doses each of over the counter meds (pyrantel pamoate), and the prescrption meds albendazole and ivermectin. Each time, after about 4-5 days, the adults return.

    I saw a doctor who wanted to prescribe mebendazole, but apparently it has not
    been available in the US since 2011 :( :(

    I have been doing everything recommended and even had my apartment and carpets
    professionally cleaned. Can anyone out there tell me how they finally kicked pinworms???? The doctors seem clueless! Getting pretty desperate here…

  • curious

    Do pin worms lay eggs that look like brown seeds

    • ensampappa