All about Hookworm Infections
Advisory by Yip Suting, Guardian Pharmacist
What are hookworms, and how do they spread?
Hookworms usually infect humans through skin penetration during their larvae stage. The larvae then migrate to the lungs or the intestines through the bloodstream. Unsuspecting hosts may pick up the larvae when walking barefooted on contaminated soil.
What are the symptoms of an infection?
Initially, the skin may feel itchy and red rashes may develop when the larvae penetrates the skin. As the larvae migrate from the skin to the lungs, a reactive cough, sore throat or fever may result. A mild infection usually does not present with any symptoms while a severe infection may result in stomach pain, diarrhoea, appetite loss, or weight loss. As hookworms feed on blood, severe infections can also cause fatigue and anaemia. If left untreated, hookworm infections in children can lead to impaired physical or mental growth.
How can I prevent infections?
Do not walk barefooted, or expose unprotected skin to soil, in areas where hookworm infections are common, or where there may be faecal contamination, especially in hot and humid developing countries. Also encourage frequent handwashing before having a meal or after visiting the toilet.
What is the treatment for a hookworm infection?
Hookworm infections can be treated with anti-parasites that kill the worms. They can be obtained from your pharmacist or doctor. However, if severe symptoms are observed which may indicate nutritional or iron deficiency, then a doctor should be consulted immediately.