Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.
I believe that our recollections of people and events from our early childhood are sparse, unreliable and mainly hearsay, passed on by relatives and family friends. Having said that, however, I do recall quite vividly having to bend over my mother’s knee, pants pulled down, while she examined my ‘bottom’ with a hairgrip to extract any worms she found.
Pinworm infections are the most common worm infection in many countries. The infection occurs most frequently in school children below the age of ten, in all socio-economic groups. By the way, animals do not harbour pinworms. Humans are the only natural host for these parasites. The most common symptom is ‘an itchy bottom’ that is worse at night when the female worms crawl out of the anus to deposit their eggs. Pinworm infections are annoying but they are usually not dangerous. Each female worm can produce more than 10,000 eggs during her lifespan. If victims scratch their bottoms, eggs may lodge under their fingernails and be spread to anything they touch. Infested clothing, bedding or toys also spread eggs so, once a child gets infected, the worms will spread throughout the family.
Adult females live for approximately three months in their human host. Their eggs may die within one to two days in a warm and dry environment; however, cool and humid conditions will allow their survival for up to two weeks.
Now you may be wondering why or how I came to be writing about pinworms. Well, the truth of the matter is that I love watching tennis and have enjoyed the rivalry between Federer and Nadal for years. Federer is my favourite, of course, while Nadal, who is forever pulling at his pants as if he had an itchy bottom, comes in a close second. You see where I got the idea from?
Many people have pinworms and have no symptoms at all, you’ll be glad to know. Pinworms rarely migrate into the vagina or urinary tract, neither do they cause abdominal pain, bloody bowel movements, fevers or poor appetite. If you suspect that you or your child might have pinworms, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.
Remember my mother and her hairgrip? Pinworms are big enough to be seen with the naked eye. They are yellow-white and look like a fine piece of thread. They are usually less than one-half inch long. Pinworms are most active at night. The best time to see them on the anus is a few hours after bedtime. You might try to sneak up on the worms by throwing back your child’s bedcovers and shining a flashlight on his or her bare bottom in the hope of catching the culprits in action, the pinworms that is. My mother was more direct: Pants down, bend down, over and done with in minutes. Ripping off bedclothes is not likely to be popular with your children either.
The pinworm problem can be cured by swallowing a single tablet, which kills the worms. Because eggs can survive for a few weeks, the patient will have to take a second dose two weeks later to lessen the chance of reinfection. Because it is common for everyone in a household to have pinworms at the same time, the doctor may recommend that everyone be treated simultaneously. In serious cases, the doctor may also recommend tap water enemas to help flush out the pinworms and reduce symptoms.
To avoid reinfection get into the habit of carefully washing the hands after using the toilet, and before and after eating. Thoroughly launder all bedding every 3-7 days for three weeks. Wash underwear and pyjamas daily for two weeks. Avoid scratching the anal region. Avoid biting your fingernails, and keep them short and clean.
Pinworm infections are easy to treat, and the pinworms go away but, because the pinworm infection is so highly contagious, it is not unusual for infections to recur.
Why pinworms are called pinworms, I do not know. Medically they are referred to as Enterobius vermicularis, a nematode that infects the intestine. They are also known as oxyuriasis or threadworms, so I guess pinworm is easier to remember. I’m glad I got that off my chest. Have a nice day!