My Kids Are Tired, Moody, or Scratch their Bottoms
Probably pinworms, or as they’re affectionately called around here: butt worms.
One of my kids had pinworms for ages before I clued in. Luckily, pinworms don’t carry disease. They crawl through your rectum and lay tens of thousands of microscopic eggs around your anus at night, and so can cause sleeplessness, which can spiral into irritable daytime behavior…or not. Many people don’t have any symptoms, or they’re so subtle the signs go unnoticed.
It was my mom who said, “it might be worms,” when we were having trouble with the morning routine: getting dressed, tantrums…you know.
According to the CDC up to 50% of American kids under the age of 18, and those who care for them, have pinworms.
Checking for Pinworms
- Pinworms emerge at night, so wait for 2-3 hours after your kiddos fall asleep, go in with a headlamp and very gently check their perineal areas (around their anus). Be patient, wait at least a minute, as the worms may shy away from the light. If they’re there, you will see a tiny worm that looks like a white cotton thread (which is why they’re also known as threadworms), about the length of a pencil tip. They wiggle. You will not see eggs, as they are microscopic.
- There is also the tape test, where you gently place Scotch tape along their anus and bottom a few hours after falling asleep or in the morning before they wash. Bag the tape and bring it to your doctor to check for pinworm eggs under a microscope.
- You can sometimes see them in your child’s (or your) poop.
Fun Facts About Pinworms
- Each adult female lays about 10,000 eggs, then dies. The CDC has thorough info on these bugs’ life cycle.
- Microscopic eggs survive 2-3 weeks at room temperature on pretty much any surface.
- Pinworms do not carry disease and are not the same worms found in pets.
- The eggs get onto hands and under fingernails, then enter a person’s body through their mouths. The worms make their way to the gut, live and eat there, then crawl out the anus at nighttime to lay their eggs and start the cycle again.
Ugh, We Have Pinworms, Now What!?!
- Day 1: If you decide to treat with medicine, all family members take it in the morning. Directions suggest taking a second dose in two weeks. Our doctor suggested taking it in 10 days and that’s what we do.
- Keep your family’s nails well-trimmed.
- Thumb-sucking and nail-biting should be discouraged (I know it’s hard!)
- Wash hands and under fingernails well and often, especially once you wake up, before eating, after the bathroom, after you come home from school, errands, or playing. Wet (then turn water off), soap, lather for 20 seconds between fingers, fronts and backs, under fingernails, rinse, dry.
- Change underwear and PJ bottoms every day.
- Shower instead of baths during a pinworm infection, making sure to wash bottoms thoroughly every morning. Do this for 3 days after taking the pinworm medicine.
- Don’t co-bathe your kiddos during an infection.
- Don’t share towels, launder often.
- Vacuum or wet-mop your child’s bedroom once a week for five weeks. (Because eggs scattered on the floor are infectious for up to three weeks, I start another three weeks of mopping after the second dose on Day 10=~five weeks.)
- Wash clothes and bedding on high to kill eggs at least once a week for five weeks.
- Scotch tape and Ziploc bags (optional): I just use the headlamp-and-look method to check whether we have pinworms
- Pinworm medicine: Our family of five needs four 1 oz bottles for Day 1 and another four bottles for Day 10 treatment. We take Reese’s Pinworm Medicine.
- Nail clippers
- Fingernail brush for thorough hand washing, we also use these nail brushes from Lee Valley.
- Lightweight, quick-drying towels to reduce drying time and laundry bills. I switched the kids to gauze towels, the kind they had when they were babies–they’re great for wrapping the kids up after a shower or bath. I bought lightweight polk-a-dot imabari Japanese towels that I love, but Amazon is no longer selling them. They’re similar to these.
- Underwear that provides coverage to wear under PJs: dad, mom, older kids and younger kiddos.
- We use Swiffer wet moping cloths with a wooden mop from Muji. You can also use this wet mop by Swiffer, which we also use.
- I’ve started making my own cleaning products with Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, white vinegar, essential oils, distilled water, and baking soda. Amanda Waters at Homesong Blog has some great natural cleaning recipes (I don’t use the alcohol).
Thoughts on Not Losing Your Mind
First time our family dealt with pinworms, my mom was visiting. She’s amazing. She’s also obsessively clean. We bagged almost everything we owned, quarantined it in our second bathroom (which became off limits for about two months). We laundered all bedding and clothes every day for weeks, vacuumed and mopped the entire apartment daily for weeks. And within months, we had pinworms again.
Here’s the thing. With very few people talking about butt worms (except hilariously amazing Kristen Bell), very few people know about them, which is why the prevalence of the worms is so high. So, they live amongst us. Your best strategy is thorough hand-washing. Because even if you manage to rid yourself of pinworms, up to 50% of kids at the schools will have them.
Do what you can. Follow the above steps. Wash your hands. And let it go.
Hiring a Professional
Having someone help with cleaning is money well spent in my mind. I’ve booked with Amazon’s Cleaning Services and it went well: