Hookworms in the foot - vacation ended in a nightmare

(Image: Thaut Images / fotolia.com)

Caribbean vacation ends with parasitic worms in your foot

The Caribbean attracts many tourists with beautiful beaches and offers a good opportunity to escape the dreary gray of winter.This is how a Canadian couple imagined their dream vacation in the Dominican Republic, but after strolling the picturesque beaches, they noticed a strong itch in their feet. The couple dismissed this as harmless insect bites, but when they returned to Ontario, the itchy spots developed into painful swollen blisters and unusual bumps on their toes.

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Two doctors the couple consulted were also at a loss and could not identify the cause. It was only the third doctor who tracked down the stowaways in the patients' feet. He diagnosed larva migrans, a skin disease also known as skin mole.

The disease is triggered by the larvae of certain hookworms, which are often found in faecal-contaminated soils in warm and humid climates such as Africa, America, China and Southeast Asia.

Hookworm larvae can lurk in soils contaminated with faeces in warm and humid areas and can also attack humans if they come into contact with the skin. (Image: Thaut Images / fotolia.com)

The life cycle of the hookworm

The hookworm larvae are located in the ground and can come into contact with human skin there. This often happens when walking barefoot. The larvae can enter the human host through the skin and then attempt to reach the host's small intestine. There they develop into adult hookworms, which can survive in the small intestine for up to two years. They lay eggs in the intestine, which are excreted in the feces and can thus find their way into a new host. In addition to humans, various animals such as dogs and cats also serve as hosts.

Symptoms of hookworm infection

The larvae move slowly under the skin, causing itchy red lines. This condition is known medically as cutaneous larva migrans and can last for several weeks. These skin irritations are usually harmless. If the larvae migrate to the lungs, breathing symptoms such as coughing and wheezing may develop. Severe hookworm larvae infestation can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and anemia.

How can the parasites be combated?

In most cases, the parasite infestation ends after one to three months by the death of the larvae. The German Dermatological Society (DDG) recommends oral therapy with ivermectin in the event of severe infections or severe psychological stress.

If this is unsuccessful, albendazole or ointments containing albendazole can be used. Itching can be combated with creams containing glucocorticoids or systemic antihistamines. As a prophylaxis, avoiding walking barefoot on potentially contaminated surfaces helps. More information and natural help against worms can be found here. (vb)

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