Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis

Hookworm infestation is a parasitic disease that is common in the tropic and subtropics. It affects the skin, lungs, and intestines. Contact with moist soil where the larvae of the hookworm lives is needed for the infection. The larvae enter through the skin and migrate through the bloodstream to the lungs and intestines. It is possible to ingest them in contaminated food and water. Hookworm is detected by laboratory examination of a stool specimen.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Signs and symptoms include itching and redness of the skin where the larvae penetrated (commonly the feet). A skin infection caused by scratching may also be present. When the larvae are migrating through the lungs, there may be a dry cough, bloodtinged sputum, wheezing and a low-grade fever. After 2 weeks they make their way to the upper small bowel where the mature worm attaches itself to the lining of the bowel and sucks blood. At this point there may be a loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and anemia.

Medication to kill the parasite usually will be given twice a day for 3 days. If anemia is present, iron pills will be prescribed. After the anemia is corrected, a high-protein diet and vitamin supplements may be needed for about 3 months. Patients should rest until their strength returns and their anemia resolves.

The DOs
• Rest until the symptoms subside.
• Take the medication as prescribed.
• Maintain a high-protein diet for 3 months.
• Take vitamin supplements as directed by your doctor.
• Wash hands well after using the bathroom and before eating.
• Wear shoes when visiting tropical areas.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t skip doses or stop the medication before finished.
• Don’t walk barefoot when visiting tropical areas.
When to Call Your Doctor
• If the skin at the area of entry appears infected, red, swollen, and warm.
• If a fever develops.
• If chest pain or shortness of breath develops.
• If you cannot tolerate food or fluids.

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