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Pinworm test

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

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 confirm that there are eggs.

The tape test may need to be done on three 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 are a potential cause of itching in the anal area.

What Abnormal Results Mean

If any 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, because the pinworms are easily passed back and forth between family members.

References

Dent AE, Kazura JW. Enterobiasis (Enterobius Vermicularis). In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 286.

Updated: 8/14/2012

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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