A doctor reveals why you should never sit on a beach without a towel on a mat.
Dr Samuel Chowdhury, a GP in Singapore, explained that lying – or walking barefoot – in the sand, can cause hookworms to burrow into people’s skin.
This causes a condition called cutaneous larva migrans.
Dr. Samuel told the story of a 17-year-old boy whose leg became infected with parasitic worms during a mission trip after his friends buried him in the sand during a game.
Michael Dumas, of Memphis, Tennessee, was on a trip with friends to Florida in June 2018 where they took a break to have some fun at Pompano Beach.
A few days later, warts appeared on his leg and open sores surrounded his right leg.
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Dr Samuel Chowdhury, a GP in Singapore, explained that lying – or walking barefoot – in the sand can push hookworms into people’s skin, causing a condition called cutaneous larva migrans. Dr. Samuel told the story of a 17-year-old boy whose leg became infected with parasitic worms during a mission trip after his friends buried him in the sand during a game. Michael Dumas, from Memphis, Tennessee, was on a trip with friends to Florida in June 2018 where they took a break to have some fun at Pompano Beach (pictured)
A few days later, he developed bumps on his leg and gaping wounds encircled his right leg (pictured).
‘This is not your normal human hookworm,’ said Dr Samuel.
‘This hookworm came from a dog.’
He explained that dogs transfer the parasite to the sand when they defecate in the sand.
‘Because it’s the dog hookworm, humans are not suitable hosts.
‘Worms will not migrate to our intestines but stay on the skin for a buffet’.
He said Michael had cover marks on him because he was completely submerged in the sand.
Michael’s mother, Kelly, took him to the emergency room where doctors told her he had several parasites known as hookworms living under the skin of his leg.
His mother, Kelly Fox, told 13 Memphis that during the last few days of their trip and when they returned home, her son complained of fatigue and earaches.
Soon after, an itchy rash appeared on her right thigh, followed by open sores all over her legs.
Dr Samuel (pictured) explains that dogs transfer the parasite to the sand when they defecate.
A visit to the emergency room revealed that Michael was infected with a parasite known as hookworm.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Dr Samuel explained: ‘A study in Australia (published in 2022) showed that around 10 per cent of dog faecal samples obtained from dog parks across Australia contained hookworms.
‘This means that exposure to bare skin in this area can also potentially lead to cutaneous larva migrans.
‘Although drugs are available for effective treatment, early diagnosis of cutaneous larva migrans may not be easy. Patients may suffer from intense itching or pain for weeks before a diagnosis is made. That’s why prevention is better than cure.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Dr Samuel explained: ‘Australian research (published in 2022) shows that around 10 per cent of dog faecal samples obtained from dog parks across Australia contain hookworms’. Kelly’s feet were photographed
‘It can take up to 30 minutes from contact with hookworms to infect your skin. No open wound is required for this to occur.
‘While I don’t enjoy rain on people’s beach holidays, it is essential to minimize bare skin exposure to sand where possible at beaches and parks.
‘Use a mat and wear shoes and avoid picking up or handling animal faecal matter with bare hands.
What is hookworm?
Hookworm is an intestinal parasite of humans.
Larvae and adult worms can cause intestinal disease if they live in the small intestine.
The two main species of hookworm that infect humans are Ancylostoma duodenale and Nectar americanus.
Hookworm eggs enter the anus of an infected person.
However, if a hookworm from another animal passes to a human, they will burrow into their skin, causing a painful rash.
Dr Samuel told FEMAIL: ‘Cutaneous larva migrans is one of the most common tropical acquired skin conditions in the world.
‘Most people who live in tropical countries often get it when they go on an exotic holiday in the tropics and they go to a beach.
‘Hookworms are usually found more in tropical countries/conditions as they prefer warmth and humidity.
‘If the environment is right they can survive for months to years. Although the beach is a common area to acquire hookworm, it can also be found in other areas.’
‘It’s important to note that although dogs are a common source, hookworms can also be found in cats,’ he added.
According to the CDC, a person with a mild infection may have no symptoms. But a severe infection brings symptoms including a localized rash, fatigue, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
‘When he was using liquid nitrogen, he could actually feel the worms moving through his body,’ Dumas told Fox 13.
She added that she currently cannot wear shoes and has to soak the infected area with bleach water every day.
Dr John Sullivan told FEMAIL that it could happen in Australia, but it was unlikely, particularly in the southern states.
‘Australian beaches are generally less vulnerable, particularly in the southern states.
‘The majority of cases seen in Australia tend to occur in travelers returning from OS holidays in Asia, including our Pacific neighbors including Bali, Thailand,’ he added.
‘This is a risk that exists in more tropical (and subtropical) regions, such as Queensland, the Northern Territory and north western Australia.
‘It’s really unusual for people to choose holidays and beach entertainment in the south of Australia.
‘The use of sand pits in areas where there are stray animals will cause greater risk to children (many occupations such as farming and horticulture)
This is due to areas contaminated by the faeces of infected cats and dogs and, unusually, other animals.
‘It is not a risk where pets are dewormed and looked after, but the risk increases in areas where animals roam and especially stray and uncared for cats, dogs and dingoes.
‘Caution is wise in northern Australia, especially if cats, dogs and dingoes roam the area.
‘Despite this risk in northern Australia, it is unusual compared to travelers returning from beach holidays in Asia and the Pacific after a beach holiday.
‘Dogs and especially dingoes in the humid tropical north are commonly infected with these hookworms which they frequent in areas with caution!
‘It is where dogs and dingoes spend more time in greater numbers where there is a risk (eg rubbish disposal areas are a big risk).
‘Infection occurs in areas of skin exposed to sand and soil including affecting the buttocks after someone sits under a tree in areas of sandy soil where these animals have defecated.
‘The feet are most affected after walking barefoot in the affected area.
‘I will enjoy the beaches in the south of Australia without being overly cautious. The risk of UV related damage and skin cancer is high! Along with surf safety, these precautions are paramount.
‘In most holiday areas councils (and resorts) control stray dogs and dingoes and make sure people clean up after their dogs.
‘The beaches of Coolangatta, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are safe to enjoy. But if there are telltale signs that animals have scurried, I’ll place in another area.
‘But I would be careful where there are dog and dingo problems such as Fraser Island and parts of the far and tropical north.
‘When walking in these areas I will keep my shoes or thong on, it is important to avoid sitting directly on the ground. Thick towels or mats, picnic rugs would be suitable’.