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Worms in humans

There are several types of worms that can cause problems in humans, including threadworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms and hookworms.

Threadworms are the only common infection seen in Australia. Tell-tale signs of worms include an itchy bottom, disturbed sleep, irritability, tiredness and lack of interest in eating.

Threadworms are small parasites that live in the intestines of humans. They are particularly common in young children under the age of 10. The worms are white, with a blunt head and a pointed tail. They can live for up to six weeks.

The female worm lays many tiny eggs around the anus. This usually happens at night while you are asleep, as the female worms only come out at night. While laying the eggs, the worm also produces an itchy chemical, which causes the person to scratch the area. Eggs then stick under fingernails and on fingertips, and can be transferred to the mouth where they can be swallowed and cause re-infestation.

The swallowed eggs hatch in the intestine. After a couple of weeks the worms reach adult size and begin to reproduce.

You cannot catch threadworms from animals with worms. The only way animals may be responsible for spreading human threadworms is by transporting them on their fur as a result of human contact.

Treatment for threadworms is aimed at getting rid of the parasites and preventing re-infestation. To successfully treat threadworms you can either follow strict hygiene methods described in worm treatments, or see your doctor who can prescribe medicine for you.

When taking medicine, you should also ensure strict hygiene methods are taken to prevent re-infestation.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your worms in humans, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

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