A Canadian couple have warned of the dangers of walking barefoot on the sand after they returned from holiday with worms in their feet.
The pair, from Ontario, had stayed at a resort in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Their feet started itching during their stay and got worse when they returned home.
“The symptoms really started to pick up,” Eddie Zytner, 25, told the Windsor Star. “The itchiness was unbearable. We were scratching pretty much non-stop.”
Getting a diagnosis took several visits to the doctor, but finally an emergency room physician worked out they were suffering from cutaneous larva migrans – or hookworms.
These are parasitic worms that can infect humans in countries with poor sanitation and a warm, moist climate, according to the UK’s NHS medical website.
Hookworm larvae are found in soil that has been contaminated with human or animal faeces. These larvae can infect people whose bare skin comes into contact with the soil.
There are different types of hookworms, but cutaneous larva migrans is caused when the larvae of hookworms found in animals get into human skin. The larvae can’t get any further into the human body but cause the skin to turn red, itchy and painful.
(Image: Katie Stephens, via Facebook)
The couple have since obtained medication from the US to treat the condition (the drug wasn’t licensed in Canada) and have seen some improvement in their feet. At the moment both are using crutches to get around.
According to the Windsor Star, they have been told the infection should subside in a few weeks, but healing the skin damage could take months.
Eddie’s girlfriend, Katie Stephens, posted graphic images of the pair’s swollen and blistered feet on Facebook.
“If your feet become incredibly itchy please get it checked out right away since we simply thought it was just bug bites and it became worse as each day passed,” she wrote in a public post.
“To anybody travelling somewhere tropical, please be careful when in the sand and wear shoes!”