Threadworms (pinworms) are tiny worms in your poo. They're common in children and spread easily. You can treat them without seeing a GP.
Check if it's threadworms
You can spot threadworms in your poo. They look like pieces of white thread.
You might also see them around your child's bottom (anus). The worms usually come out at night while your child is sleeping.
See what threadworms look like in poo
Other symptoms can include:
- extreme itching around the anus or vagina, particularly at night
- irritability and waking up during the night
Less common signs of worms include:
- weight loss
- wetting the bed
- irritated skin around the anus
A pharmacist can help with threadworms
You can buy medicine mebendazole for threadworms from pharmacies. This is usually a chewable tablet or liquid you swallow.
Treat everyone over 2 years old in your household, even if they do not have symptoms.
Tell the pharmacist if you need to treat a child under 2 years old, or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Treatment might not be suitable and you may need to speak to a GP.
If you cannot take medicine you can treat threadworms by using hygiene methods for 6 weeks.
Things you should do at home for threadworms
Medicine kills the threadworms, but it does not kill the eggs. Eggs can live for up to 2 weeks outside the body.
There are things you can do to stop becoming infected again. Do these for 2 weeks if you’re taking medicine, or for 6 weeks if you’re not taking medicine.
wash hands and scrub under fingernails – particularly before eating, after using the toilet or changing nappies
encourage children to wash hands regularly
shower every morning
rinse toothbrushes before using them
keep fingernails short
wash sleepwear, sheets, towels and soft toys (at a hot temperature) every day for several days after treatment
disinfect kitchen and bathroom surfaces, using hot water
vacuum and dust with a damp cloth
make sure everyone in the household wears underwear at night and changes it in the morning
do not shake clothing or bedding, to prevent eggs landing on other surfaces
do not share towels or flannels
do not bite nails or suck thumbs and fingers
Important: Nursery, school and work
If you or your child has threadworms there's no need to stay off nursery, school or work.
How threadworms spread
Threadworms spread when their eggs are swallowed. They lay eggs around your bottom (anus), which make it itchy. The eggs get stuck on your fingers when you scratch. They can then pass on to anything you touch, including:
- kitchen or bathroom surfaces
Eggs can pass to other people when they touch these surfaces and then touch their mouth. The eggs can survive up to 2 weeks. The larvae hatch from the eggs in your gut after you swallow them, and take 1 to 2 months to mature into threadworms.
Children can get threadworms again after they've been treated for them if they get the eggs in their mouth. This is why it's important to encourage children to wash their hands regularly.
Page last reviewed: 1 December 2023
Next review due: 1 December 2026