It's not uncommon for actress Kristen Bell to be at the center of discussions related to everything from depression to parenting to marriage. After all, it's her honesty about such subjects that makes people love her. But the latest topic she has brought to the table has us feeling, well, kind of gross. That's because during a recent appearance on The Joel McHale Show, Bell said she discovered her daughter had anal worms after noticing the 3-year-old was scratching her butt. Go ahead, you can cringe now. But how do kids get anal worms and what the hell are they? Experts say they're as icky as they sound.
"The pinworm is acquired through the fecal-oral route most commonly from the hands where eggs may be present under the fingernails, for example," Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a board-certified infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health, tells Romper in an email interview. "The eggs may be acquired through scratching — as anal itch is a common symptom — or through handling contaminated linens or cloths. The person ingests the eggs and the infection ensues."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the pinworm — also known as the threadworm — is a small, thin, white roundworm called Enterobius vermicularis that sometimes lives in the colon and rectum of humans. "Pinworms are about the length of a staple," the CDC noted. "While an infected person sleeps, female pinworms leave the intestine through the anus and deposit their eggs on the surrounding skin."
Even worse, Healthline noted that pinworm infections are easily spread. "They’re most common in children between the ages of 5 and 10, people who live in institutions, and those who have regular, close contact with individuals in these groups."
Which was exactly the case for Bell's daughter, Delta. The actress said she had been alerted to a pinworm outbreak at her daughter's preschool and, sure enough, her daughter began scratching, reported App.com. Following a trip to the bathroom, Bell then wiped Delta's bottom and noticed a little white worm. Her daughter's diagnosis also led to Bell contracting her own special case of anal worms. Lucky her.
According to Mayo Clinic, pinworm eggs can survive for two to three weeks on surfaces like toys, faucets, bedding, and toilet seats. If kids do contract pinworms and become itchy or scratchy, then the eggs get under the fingernails and can be transferred from contaminated fingers to food, liquids, clothes, or other people, the website noted.
A pinworm infection diagnosis typically requires a tape test which is exactly as it sounds, according to Healthline. The test is done at home by taking a piece of tape and pressing the sticky, adhesive side against the skin around the anus. If eggs are present, then they will stick to the tape. You should then take the tape to your doctor, so that it can be evaluated.
Adalja says treatment involves a single dose of medication that is highly effective and provides prompt relief, "though a second dose is often administered because of the high chance of reinfection." Healthline mentioned that in the event of an infected household member, it is important for everyone to be treated in order to prevent reinfection. "Serious complications and long-term health effects are rare," Adalja says.
If your child becomes infected, it's also important to scrub down household surfaces, thoroughly wash hands, and bathe and change underwear daily, according to the CDC. As if you need to be convinced to wash all of the things.
Also important? Some self-care on your end. Because, man, this is one of those parenting moments you won't soon erase from your mind.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.