Threadworms are a common, non-fatal parasite that can live in the human small intestine. It is unusual in developed countries where the water and soil are not contaminated with fecal matter. If you do contract threadworms, avoid swimming because you may contaminate the water.
The threadworm, also known as the pinworm, is from the family of intestinal parasites known as helminths. They are the most common form of roundworm to be found throughout the United States. They reproduce within the human body, where they produce microscopic eggs that develop into adult within the human intestinal tract.
Adult threadworm range between 0.2 and 0.4 inches in length. They are white and have the appearance of short, fine pieces of thread. Adults live in the digestive tract for up to six weeks. As they mature they travel from the small intestine through the digestive tract to lay their eggs in the anus.
You may have threadworms lining in your intestine and not be aware of it. They do not always cause symptoms, though some sufferers notice an extreme itchiness around the anus, and the vaginal area in females. The itchiness may increase in intensity during the night. However, this itching could also be caused by hemorrhoids or eczema.
Threadworms can be contracted through direct contact with an infected person, or direct contact with an object that has been contaminated by an infected person such as a towel, seat, bedding, food or furniture. Threadworms can survive in swimming pools so it is important not to swim if you have threadworm, otherwise you could contaminate the water.
According to Dr. Stuart Crisp, threadworm should be treated as soon as possible. If you live with a family, everyone should be treated at the same time. There are two over-the-counter medications available; mebendazole and piperazine. It takes only a single dose of medication to eradicate the infestation.