It’s not something we really like to talk about, but getting a case of the worms isn’t that uncommon. And while children are far more likely to pick up a threadworm infection than adults, threadworms are highly contagious and spread very easily among family members at home. So if your child brings home worms from school, how can you tell whether you’ve been infected too? Here, we discuss common threadworm symptoms, as well as symptoms to look out for with less common worm infections that can occur in more tropical parts of New Zealand or be brought back from overseas.

Visible signs of worms

Symptoms of threadworms in adults often aren’t very obvious and many people may not realise they have worms at all. So the best way to confirm whether you have worms is to actually find evidence of the little critters by seeing the worms themselves or their eggs.

But aren’t threadworms pretty tiny? And their eggs are even tinier? Yes, they are; but there are a couple of tricks to help you check whether you have a threadworm infection.

First of all, can you see any signs of worms? Threadworms are quite small, only about 1 cm long, and they look like a small piece of white thread. While threadworms mostly live in the intestines, the female worms come out of the anus at night to lay their eggs on the skin around your bottom. So it’s possible to see these worms moving around on your bottom itself during the night, or find some in your underwear or on your bed sheets in the morning. In some cases, worms may be visible in faeces, but this usually only occurs with a severe infection.

The second way to check for a threadworm infection is by doing what’s called the ‘sticky tape test’. Because the worms lay eggs around your bottom during the night, your doctor may ask you to collect a sample of these eggs first thing in the morning. This involves pressing a piece of sticky tape on the skin around your bottom to collect any worm eggs that were laid during the night. It’s best to do this test in the morning before going to the toilet or showering to avoid wiping or washing away any eggs. The tape is examined under a microscope to see whether worm eggs are present, which will allow your doctor to confirm a threadworm infection.

Threadworm/pinworm signs and symptoms

As mentioned above, many people do not experience any symptoms when they have a threadworm infection – around 40% of all people have no symptoms of having worms. For most people, threadworms are relatively harmless and don’t cause serious problems. When worm symptoms do occur, there’s a few key things that suggest it could be threadworms.

The most common symptom associated with threadworm infections is an itchy bottom, especially at night. An itchy bottom is caused by the skin reacting to the worms laying their eggs on the skin around the anus during the night. And all this night-time itching and scratching can really disturb and disrupt your sleep, as well as irritate and possibly damage your skin, increasing the risk of infection.

Other threadworm symptoms that can occur include:

● Restlessness and irritability

● Teeth grinding

● Reduced appetite

● Stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting (more likely with more severe infections)

● In women, redness and itching around the vagina. If you are not sure whether your symptoms are signs of worms, you should talk to your doctor.

If you are not sure whether your symptoms are signs of worms, or if you have any concerns about any of your symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.

Other intestinal worms signs and symptoms

While threadworms are the most likely cause of an intestinal worm infection in New Zealand, other types of worms can also be the culprit. Here’s a brief rundown on signs and symptoms of these types of worms and what to look out for.


Most people who have a whipworm infection don’t experience any symptoms, and those that do will usually have a more severe infection. When symptoms do occur, they usually involve diarrhoea and intestinal inflammation.


Similarly, most roundworm infections don’t cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, the symptoms relate to where the worms are in the body. Most symptoms are caused by adult worms in the intestines and typically involve stomach discomfort, reduced appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Roundworms in the intestines can also cause problems with the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. After roundworm eggs hatch, the young worms (called larvae) travel through the body. When these larvae are on the move, they can cause some short-lived respiratory symptoms including a dry cough and shortness of breath.


The signs and symptoms of hookworm infections in humans reflect what stage the infection is at. Hookworm infections start when the larvae burrow into unbroken skin, which can cause an itchy, bumpy rash on the skin where the larvae enter. The larvae then travel through the airways in the body. This doesn’t usually cause any symptoms but may result a mild cough or throat irritation may occur during this stage. When the larvae reach the intestines, they can trigger symptoms in the digestive tract including nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, and gassiness. The larvae mature into adult hookworms in the intestine and then attach themselves to the intestinal wall. Here, they can cause more serious problems if left untreated.

So now that you can recognise the signs and symptoms of worms in adults, what should you do when worms affect you or someone in your family? Luckily, treatment is easy with VERMOX. One dose – once – effectively kills threadworms in adults and children aged 2 years and over. But importantly, everyone in the household should be treated at the same time, even if they aren’t showing any signs or symptoms of infection. Pregnant women should speak with their doctor before starting any worm treatment. Along with good hygiene practices to help prevent reinfection, treating the entire family is vital for getting rid of worms from your home.

Frequently asked questions about worms in adults


No, often symptoms of worms in adults are not very obvious or absent altogether. The most common symptoms of a threadworm infection is an itchy bottom at night.


Worm infections can sometimes cause non-specific symptoms associated with the digestive tract including nausea, gassiness, and diarrhoea.


Threadworms are more likely to reduce your appetite than make you hungrier.


Left untreated, threadworms will continue to lay eggs, which increases the likelihood of reinfection and worms being spread through the whole family.


Worms can affect the digestive tract, causing symptoms such as nausea, stomach discomfort, gassiness, and even diarrhoea.


You do not need to stay at home once you have started treatment for worms unless you are experiencing diarrhoea or vomiting. Parents or carers might be asked to inform their child’s daycare or school if the family is being treated. Remember to always wash your hands thoroughly before eating and after going to the toilet to help prevent the spread of worm eggs.