Pinworm test

  • Definition
    • A pinworm test is a method used to identify a pinworm infection. Pinworms are small, thin worms that commonly infect young children, although anyone can be infected.

  • Alternative Names
    • Oxyuriasis test; Enterobiasis test; Tape test

  • How the Test is Performed
    • When a person has a pinworm infection, adult pinworms live in the intestine and colon. At night, the female adult worms deposit their eggs outside the rectum or anal area.

      One way to diagnose pinworms is to shine a flashlight on the anal area. The worms are tiny, white, and threadlike. If none are seen, check for two or three additional nights.

      The best way to diagnose this infection is to do a tape test. The best time to do this is in the morning before bathing, because pinworms lay their eggs at night. Firmly press the sticky side of a 1-inch strip of cellophane tape over the anal area for a few seconds. The eggs stick to the tape. The tape is then transferred to a glass slide, sticky side down. Your health care provider needs to examine the slide to determine if there are eggs.

      The tape test may need to be done on 3 separate days to improve the chances of detecting the eggs.

  • How to Prepare for the Test
    • No special preparation is necessary.

  • How the Test will Feel
    • This test is usually well tolerated. The skin may have minor irritation.

  • Why the Test is Performed
    • This test is performed to check for pinworms, which can cause itching in the anal area.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean
    • If adult pinworms or eggs are found, the person has a pinworm infection.

  • Risks
    • There are no risks.

  • Considerations
    • Consult your health care provider for treatment. Usually the whole family is treated with medicine, because the pinworms are easily passed back and forth between family members.

  • References
    • Dent AE, Kazura JW. Enterobiasis (Enterobius vermicularis). In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 286.

      Maguire JH. Intestinal nematodes (roundworms). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Mandell GL, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 288.