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A magnified illustration of a threadworm.
Illustration of a Threadworm

Not the ones that you find in the earth or use to catch fish with; the ones that crawl around your body and lay eggs in mentionable and unmentionable places.

Wormy facts

There are lots of different varieties of worms that affect humans: long ones, short ones, thin ones, fat ones, flat ones, hermaphrodite (bisexual) ones; almost as many varieties as there are ice-creams. There are some that make you thin; some that make your bum itch and some that you never know that you have. Some you catch from animals; some you catch from eating uncooked food and some that you catch from other human beings. Some live in Africa, some live in far Eastern countries and some are universal around the world. The commonest ones in the UK are threadworms.

What are Threadworms?

They are tiny white worms that look like threads of cotton. They live in your gut near your appendix. They come in two sexes - the "hers" are bigger than the "hims" - 13mm compared with 5mm and with a diameter of 0.5 mm compared with 0.2 mm. The poor old pregnant female worm is really just made up of two huge wombs ready to spill out, whilst all the male has for himself is a curly tail. The female creeps out at night to lay her eggs (which are too small to see) on the skin around your bum, which is why you get itchy there.

Who gets them?

Nobody is spared and up to one in three children have threadworms at any one time, even if they don't know they have them! Adults get them too, and once one person in the family has them, then the rest are very likely to have them.

Are they dangerous?

No. They don't do you any serious harm, although they do make your bum itch and make you very uncomfortable.

How do they get spread around?

  1. You scratch your bum because the eggs of the threadworm make it itchy.
  2. You get the eggs under your finger nails.
  3. You touch some food.
  4. Someone else eats that food which now has wormy eggs on it.
  5. Those eggs get swallowed and go into the next person's intestines.
  6. The eggs hatch into worms and it all starts again.

How do you get rid of them?

They are very easy to treat The chemist sells medicine for you to take - and you don';t need a doctor's prescription (though it is free if you have one). You normally only have to take one dose of the medicine, and everyone in the family should be treated at the same time.

And to make sure you don't get them again?

Wash your hands and scrub under your fingernails and don't scratch your bum!