Hookworm eggs found in animal (usually dog or cat) feces hatch and form the larvae that cause CLM. These hookworms are not the same ones that cause human hookworm disease. The larvae live in warm, moist, sandy soil and are determined, sturdy parasites that can penetrate human skin, even through something as seemingly protective as a beach towel.
Much of the time, the larvae enter between the toes, so walking barefoot in soil or sand that is contaminated with animal feces is an avenue for infection. You or your children can also be infected by sitting, playing, gardening, or working in infected soil or sand.
The larvae tend to like moist, warm, shaded areas, such as sandboxes and spots underneath houses. You can come into contact with these parasites when traveling to tropical areas in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, but they are also found in the United States in the southeastern and Gulf states.
A few hours after the larvae enter the skin, they form raised red spots on the affected areas (usually the feet, hands, or buttocks). In a few days (or in some cases, a few months), the larvae move under the skin, creating itchy red lines and, occasionally, blisters. These itchy lines usually appear on top of the foot or on the buttocks but can be anywhere on the body that was in contact with the soil or sand. Because the larvae are not from human hookworm, the disease ends at the skin stage. Although it's a very itchy, frustrating infection, most people with CLM will get better without treatment.
Cutaneous larva migrans (CLM) is a human parasitic skin infestation of various types of hookworm larvae.
Who's at Risk?
Children are at greater risk of CLM because of their less-than-hygienic play practices. Also at risk are gardeners, sunbathers, utility workers, and travelers to tropical areas.
The mere thought of CLM probably creeps you out, but you can keep the hookworms from getting a little too close for comfort. When visiting a beach, ask the local authorities if animals are allowed in the area. If no pets are allowed, you have a little less to worry about. And while you're out on the beach, wear shoes or sandals to keep hookworm larvae from penetrating into your feet. You may love the feel of sand between your toes, but you'll hate the feel of CLM even more.
You should also protect the rest of your body while you're on the beach. The parasites that cause CLM can penetrate some objects, so it's a good idea to sit on two or more beach towels, or, better yet, a lounge chair. Finally, stay away from moist, shady, sandy areas because these are the most likely places for parasites to gather.
In our next section, we will learn about dengue fever -- a more exotic disease than hookworms because mosquitoes in tropical climates carry it from one person to the next.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.