Kids plus germs often equals extreme yuckiness (think stomach flu). But there are some childhood afflictions that -- even though they're not at all dangerous -- are (how to put this?) truly disgusting. First, the good news: The four conditions described here have nothing to do with hygiene and are much more common than you think, so there's no need to be embarrassed. The bad news? Well, read on.
What They Are: Tiny white worms that infect the intestines. They're about half an inch long and threadlike in appearance.
Yuck Factor: Pretty intense. Pinworm eggs hatch in the small intestine, and the babies move to the large intestine. The adult female worms come out at night to lay their eggs on the outside of the anus. You may even see them (eww!) around your kid's rectum, in his underwear, or in his poop. Fun.
How They Spread: Anything touched by anyone with pinworms can spread their eggs. It usually works like this: Kid scratches bottom; eggs embed under the fingernails; kid touches something, leaves eggs behind (they live for two weeks!); eggs get picked up and eventually ingested. Best not to think about the particulars. The main point is, they're very contagious.
How You Know He's Got Them: Pinworms itch like crazy at night (that's the female worms laying their eggs). If your kid appears in his pajamas with an itchy rear end night after night (but seems fine in the morning), you may be dealing with the creepy crawlers. You can try to catch a glimpse of the worms, but in the interest of minimizing trauma, throw yourself on your doctor's mercy: Stick a piece of tape on your child's anus, then take it in to the doc's office (he'll examine it under a microscope). If the symptoms all line up, a prescription is in order.
What To Do: Your doctor will prescribe a single dose of an anti-parasitic and a second dose two weeks later. It's common to treat the whole family because the worms are so contagious. And get ready for lots of laundry (set the water temp to 130°F). Wash all bedding, stuffed animals, and towels -- and then keep on laundering bedding and towels every few days. Underwear and pj's should be cleaned daily for at least three weeks.