Some types of worms can infect people. Some can be caught in the UK and others are only caught abroad. Most worm infections aren’t serious and can be easily treated with medicine.

A pharmacist can help if you have:

  • small, white worms in your poo that look like pieces of thread
  • extreme itching around your anus, particularly at night

This is probably threadworms.

They’re common in the UK and can be treated with medicine from a pharmacy.

See a GP if you:

  • find a large worm or large piece of worm in your poo
  • have a red, itchy worm-shaped rash on your skin
  • have sickness, diarrhoea or a stomach ache for longer than 2 weeks
  • are losing weight for no reason

These could be symptoms of something like roundworm, hookworm or tapeworm.

These infections are usually caught while travelling. They can take a long time to cause symptoms, so tell your GP if you’ve been abroad in the last 2 years.

Treatment to get rid of worms

You might be asked to provide a sample of poo so it can be tested for worm eggs.

If you have worms, your GP will prescribe medicine to kill them. You take this for 1 to 3 days. The people you live with may also need to be treated.

Any worms in your gut will eventually pass out in your poo. You may not notice this.

To avoid becoming infected again or infecting others, it’s very important during the weeks after starting treatment to wash your hands:

  • after going to the toilet
  • before eating or preparing food
  • regularly during the day

How you catch worms

Worms are mainly spread in small bits of poo from people with a worm infection. Some are caught from food.

You can get infected by:

  • touching objects or surfaces with worm eggs on them – if someone with worms doesn’t wash their hands
  • touching soil or swallowing water or food with worm eggs in it – mainly a risk in parts of the world without modern toilets or sewage systems
  • walking barefoot on soil containing worms – only a risk in parts of the world without modern toilets or sewage systems
  • eating raw or undercooked beef, pork or freshwater fish (like salmon or trout) containing baby worms – more common in parts of the world with poor food hygiene standards

You can catch some worms from pets, but this is rare.

How to prevent worm infections