2020 has been a real treat so far, but we have so much to look forward to. Unemployment, ongoing racism and bigotry against marginalized folks, homeschooling in the fall because COVID and science deniers, what will surely be a dumpster fire of an election year, and stress. What a hoot!
But then there are those sneaky surprises that we just don’t see coming that really spice things up, like murder hornets and dust storms. And if you are lucky to have it on your “2020 Is Shit” Bingo Card, pinworms could make you a winner.
Pinworms, you ask? Yes, also known as butt worms, anal worms, or bunghole parasites. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need is the urge to drag my ass across the carpet to satisfy an itchy butthole. Pinworms are actually pretty common, do not discriminate between race, gender, or socioeconomic backgrounds, and are super gross: Just ask Kristen Bell.
When Bell was on The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale she casually dropped that she had recently had “anal worms.” When McHale asked—with terror—if they hurt, Bell said, “No, but it was very itchy. I’m not here to talk about pinworms, but I will. Fifty percent of people over 15 don’t experience symptoms, which is the itch. Your kids get them because they put their hands in their mouth and they lay eggs.” Barf. Her daughter picked up the pinworm infection from her daycare center and Bell had the misfortune to also get the super contagious nightmare.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a pinworm is a small, thin, white worm that lives inside of the human colon and rectum. Pinworms are roughly half an inch long and do their best work at night. “While an infected person sleeps, female pinworms leave the intestine through the anus and deposit their eggs on the surrounding skin.” This brings new meaning to while you were sleeping because when you wake up you have a new batch of eggs on your anus. Just like Christmas but different.
A pinworm infection is most common in young kids, specifically preschoolers and elementary school children. It’s not uncommon for daycare centers and preschools to have an outbreak of pinworms. Nor is it uncommon for parents, siblings, or anyone else in the house to also contract pinworms once one person has been infected.
As Bell pointed out, an infection is spread via anus-to-mouth transfer. I am not suggesting that kids or adults are eating their own shit on purpose; I am suggesting that kids need to keep their hands out of their pants and their mouth and use soap and water while they increase the number of times they wash their hands in a day, particularly before they eat. Do better, kids. Because once you swallow eggs from contaminated surfaces, fingers and fingernails included, you become the proud host of pinworms. Pinworms that lay eggs on your butthole.
A couple of hours after nesting on the anus, eggs become infective. If they leave the chocolate starfish and make their way to clothing or bedding or anywhere really, they can stay infective for 2-3 weeks. Oh, and the eggs are small enough to be airborne, so they can also be ingested while breathing. I bet you have zero problem wearing a mask now, huh?
Fine, you say! So I or my kids swallow a few bugs. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that your asshole is going to be irritated and itchy and you get to wash bedding, sheets, and anything else you come in contact with every day for three weeks to kill all infective eggs. You also get to enjoy an over-the-counter medicine and the reluctant walk to the pharmacy to pick up said medicine. Not that you should feel shame; pinworms are three times more common than lice. Dear God, I can’t choose which would be worse.
Caila, now a mom herself, remembers when she got pinworms when she was eight. She got them three times in three months. “My mom used to call them ‘itchies’ so that I wouldn’t freak out when hearing that they were really worms. She even had to hide the medicine box that had the word ‘pinworms’ in bold print so I wouldn’t find out what they actually were,” Caila tells Scary Mommy. She was a smart kid, though, and realized she had worms in her bunghole. “It was awful and embarrassing.”
Kelly, mom of two, suspected one of her children had pinworms, so she did what all parents sign up to do: She snuck into her kid’s room after he fell asleep and shined a flashlight into his butthole. Kelly tells Scary Mommy, “I have seen worms crawling out my kid’s ass. There’s nothing that compares to that experience.” This is an experience I am okay never having. They also took the over-the-counter medication and washed sheets, clothes, themselves, and then towels every morning for several weeks. That sounds almost as bad as having an itchy poop hole.
Another way to confirm a pinworm infection is to do the “tape test.” Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. Upon waking, and before going to the bathroom or showering, the CDC suggests placing the sticky side of clear tape to the skin around the anus. The pulled sample can be looked at under a microscope to determine if there are pinworm eggs present. Come for the pinworms, stay for the Brazilian wax is what I always say.
Learning all of this has given me sympathy itches and motivation to wash my hands more often. I also needed to get buy-in from my children because the fuck if I am going to deal with this. I scarred my oldest, who is now on hand washing patrol to keep her siblings in line. I was in another room, but I heard her hiss at her brother who had just used the bathroom, “Wash your hands! Do you want all of us to get pinworms?!” She also insisted on having her nails clipped.
I have no regrets about the nightmares I may cause, and if my kids don’t practice proper hygiene, I will have to find a few photos to reinforce how much none of us want the “itchies.”
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