Hookworms are parasites that live in the intestines of infected people. Hookworm eggs (larvae) spread in the feces (poop) of people with hookworm disease. Many people have no symptoms, but signs of a hookworm infection include skin rash, fever, stomach pain and diarrhea.
Hookworm is a parasite that infects the intestines. Hookworm larvae (eggs) enter through your skin. Once they reach the intestine, they hatch. As the name implies, hookworms have a hook-like head that attaches to the intestinal walls.
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A parasite is an organism that needs to live on or inside another organism (animal or human). The parasite relies on its host (the creature it lives in or on) to survive.
Hookworms are parasites that live inside the intestines. There, they feed on blood from the intestinal wall, mature and lay eggs.
Hookworm disease is widespread in many parts of the world. As many as 740 million people worldwide have hookworm disease.
Hookworm disease affects children and adults. It is most common in warm, humid and tropical locations. It’s especially common in places lacking indoor sanitation.
Yes. You can get hookworm by coming in contact with stool from an infected person. Hookworm infections also spread through contact with infected soil.
Hookworm infections in dogs, cats and other animals typically come from a different species than the one that infects humans. Animal hookworms can sometimes penetrate a person’s skin, but they don’t mature or lay eggs inside a human host.
Animal hookworms can cause a rash as they move under the skin. This itchy rash, called cutaneous larva migrans, shows up as a thin, raised red line that spreads across the skin.
Hookworm larvae pass in the feces (poop) of someone already infected with hookworm disease. If a person with hookworm disease poops outdoors, the larvae enter the soil. Using human feces as fertilizer can also contaminate the soil.
If you walk barefoot on infected soil, the larvae can enter your body through the skin on your feet.
After infected larvae enter through your skin, they travel through your body:
Many people infected with hookworm disease have no symptoms. Those who do have symptoms may experience mild ones at first. Symptoms progress as the infection gets more severe.
Possible symptoms include :
Hookworms feed on blood in your intestines. An untreated, severe infection results in blood loss. Blood loss can lead to anemia and protein deficiency. Severe anemia can cause dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Children infected with hookworms over long periods of time can suffer severe effects from lack of iron and protein. This can slow both their physical and mental development.
If you have symptoms of hookworm disease, your healthcare provider will test a sample of your poop. They analyze the stool sample under a microscope to look for hookworm eggs.
If you have recently traveled to an area where hookworm is common, your provider may recommend blood tests. A complete blood count can show eosinophilia (higher than normal white blood cell count). This sign of hookworm disease can show up weeks before eggs are present in your stool.
If tests show that you have hookworm disease, your provider will prescribe medications that treat the infection. In most cases, you’ll take an anthelmintic medication (medication used to destroy parasitic worms) orally (by mouth) for one to seven days.
Your provider may prescribe these medicines to get rid of parasitic worms:
Your provider may also prescribe iron supplements to treat anemia caused by hookworm disease.
You should avoid walking barefoot in places where the soil or sand may be infected. In these areas, don’t touch the ground with your bare hands. Sit on a tarp or other barrier instead of sitting on the bare earth.
Take these precautions in regions where people:
Hookworm disease is easily curable with appropriate medication. Most symptoms — including anemia — will go away once the infection clears.
You should call your healthcare provider if you have:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hookworm disease is a common parasitic infection in many parts of the world. Most people get the parasite by walking barefoot in soil infected with hookworm eggs. Left untreated, it can lead to unpleasant — and sometimes serious — symptoms. A single course of medication that kills the parasites is usually enough to treat the infection.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/24/2021.
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