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Expert Q&A

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Can my daughter catch pinworms at aplaydate?

Asked by Ariane, Georgia

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My friend's daughter has pinworms. Can my daughter catch pinworms if they have a playdate together?

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Pinworms are very common and have been reported to affect about 40 million people in the United States at any given time. These harmless worms are thin, white, threadlike and about ¼ inch long and are often seen moving around the anus or buttocks at night or early in the morning. They can cause itching around the anus and sometimes abdominal pain but often cause no symptoms at all.

Pinworms are most commonly found in elementary school- and preschool-age children as well as people of any age living in crowded settings. Household pets do not typically carry this type of worm.

The worms and their eggs may be transmitted directly from person to person or through the handling of contaminated toys, clothes, bed linens and other objects. Pinworms are thought to be mildly contagious and are best prevented with good handwashing, keeping fingernails clean and short, and avoiding bed sharing. Also refrain from nail-biting, thumb-sucking and scratching around the anus.

Since the infection is so common (and not always apparent), individuals with pinworms are not advised to stay out of school, day care or other activities. As would be true with all playdates, it's a good idea for your daughter to wash her hands before eating, after using the bathroom and whenever they look dirty.

If she is too young to practice good hygiene, you may want to wait until her friend has been treated. The treatment involves taking a medication just one time when the condition is diagnosed and then again in two weeks. Any family members or close contacts who have symptoms should be tested and/or treated.

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