Threadworms are extremely common in school age children – it is estimated that up to 50 per cent of children less than 10 years of age may be infected. They are very easy to transmit from one child to another and require meticulous hygiene measures for up to six weeks to be completely clear of them.

The worms are white and look like a fine piece of thread – you can often see them around the child’s back passage or in the child’s stools and they cause intense itching – which is often the first indication that they are present.

The actual worms are easily treated using medication containing Mebendazole, which can be obtained from your local pharmacy as Ovex – in either liquid or chewable tablet form. Many people are not aware that treatments for threadworms are also available throughout the pharmacy network on the Minor Ailments Service. So no need to visit your GP for a prescription, you can avail of treatment and advice from your local pharmacy. If required the pharmacist will supply a product free of charge to you and will guide you on how to get the most from your treatment.

However the treatment does not kill the eggs which are produced by the threadworms and the only way to get rid of them is to follow good hygiene guidelines. If these measures are not followed there is a high chance of further infection.
All members of the family should be treated as it is highly likely that if one member of the family is infected everyone will be similarly infected. The Ovex treatment may be repeated 14 days after the initial treatment if reinfection is suspected. Every family member is treated with the same medication except for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding or under two years of age. In these cases the GP should be consulted.

When a child is found to be infected, all the child’s bedclothes and sleepwear should be washed and the mattress, bedroom carpet and bathroom should be thoroughly vacuumed to remove any eggs which may have dropped off the body as these can survive for a period of time in the home.

It is also recommended that the infected individual’s nails should be cut short to prevent the eggs from lodging under the nails and therefore being transmitted to other individuals as well as re-infecting themselves. Children should also be discouraged from nail biting or sucking their thumb as these are common routes for swallowing more eggs.

After treatment, personal hygiene is extremely important – washing hands and scrubbing under the nails after using the bathroom and before eating is essential. If the child continues to scratch their bottom wearing cotton gloves at night may help.
In the home, high standards of cleanliness should be maintained in the bedroom and bathroom areas in particular, preventing re-infection and should be continued for six weeks to ensure complete clearance. Children can easily pick up another threadworm infection from friends or at school, so maintaining good hygiene may help prevent another outbreak.

These measures may seem tedious, and are often not carried out correctly leading to a high re-infection rate among children, but they are the only way to ensure a completely successful outcome.

Richard Dunn is a community pharmacist with Gordons Chemists.

Gordons Chemists is the largest independently owned retail pharmacy chain in Northern Ireland. Established in 1980, Gordons now has 60 pharmacies on the high street and in shopping centres across Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Products described are available at most pharmacies and Gordons Chemists does not endorse any individual product. Always consult your pharmacist in relation to your individual symptoms.


Wendy McCague


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