The pinworm, or seatworm, is a very common parasite found in all countries. Like the roundworm it has a predilection for children and young people. It is more common in cities than in the country. The worm lives exclusively in the body of man, in which it is different from most other animal parasites which have one of the lower animals as an intermediate host.
The parasite enters the body in the stage of the egg. The eggs are destroyed by long immersion in water and, therefore, drinking water as a source of infection is ruled out. The eggs leaving the body of an infected person may be deposited on the ground and enter another person’s body through the mouthby sucking dirty fingers that have been playing in the mud, on fruit and raw vegetables which have been handled by dirty fingers, and countless other ways of the same general character. After the egg has entered the human stomach it develops into the adult worm in about fifteen days.
The worms locate mostly at the head of the large intestine, migrate down to the rectum, and crawl out over the skin of the buttocks, giving rise to intense itching. It is this itching which is the cause of so much re-infection. Hands and fingernails that scratch the affected parts are conveyed to the mouth and result in constant re-infection. Besides this, eggs are developing in the intestine so that about every thirty days there is a new crop of adult worms.
These facts show us the way to prevention and treatment. The most important thing is to prevent contamination of the fingernails and consequent re-infection. Second, one treatment is not enough but a course of treatment should be repeated every two weeks for several months. First the parasites in the lower bowel should be destroyed and washed out. This can be done very simply by enemas of infusion of quassia. Vinegar and water is said to be just as good. Besides this, the parasites on the skin of the buttocks must be killed with mercurial ointment and the irritation allayed with a soothing ointment, such as camphor ice.
The patient’s buttocks and legs should be covered at night so that the parasites do not get into the bed and the hands should be covered by gloves so that temptations to sucking the fingers or biting the nails are removed.
Besides this, the worms at the head of the large intestine must be removed. This is done as follows: A dose of castor oil the night before, no breakfast, santonin1 grain for a child, 3 grains for an adult, an hour later 1/2 grain of calomel, and two hours later a good dose of epsom salts.