How to kill the worm growing in your foot

Sometime in the middle of last week, while I was traveling through the southeast of Senegal, I contracted what I thought was a very itchy mosquito bite on the outside of my foot. I scratched it a little bit, felt it grow, and then forgot about it until I got home.

While I was taking that first shower after returning home (the one during which you gleefully wash all the visible dirt off of your body), I realized that my “mosquito bite” had grown even more, in a squiggly, branching pattern that stretched from my ankle almost to my pinky toe. It was almost worm-like. I recalled that our Assistant Program Director had warned us about contracting hatching worms from standing on wet sand, and that a student in our program had contracted what we’d colloquially called “foot worm.”

Then I began to panic.

Do you see that wavy line that’s slightly raised? It’s more visible (more spread out) in real life, and it’s not a vein.

I spent almost all of Sunday on Google. After hours of searching “sand worm,” “worm under skin,” “worm in foot,” “worm under skin on foot,” “worm foot treatment,” etc., I narrowed down my symptoms to the least-scary condition: Cutaneous Larva Migrans (CLM). If my diagnosis was correct, an animal-host hookworm larva was burrowing around in my dermal layers trying to, but unable to, penetrate my basement membrane. The raised line was fortunately not its body, but instead the irritated tissue left from the larva’s 2-4mm/day search. When I read that the most harmful consequence was secondary infection from scratching the itch, and that the larva would go away on its own in a few months, I laid back with a sigh of relief and thought of how fun it would be, if s/he lived long enough, to bring my new African friend along with me across Europe.

Saay saay laa/Je suis un joker/I am such a joker.

That thing was headed to an early death.

Thanks again to Google, I found some of the active ingredients that were most likely to kill the larva (thiabendazole, ivermectin, albendazole, taken orally or topically). I had to search through a few pharmacies before I found a white paste labeled with “LARVA MIGRANS,” with no ingredients listed. Still, I trusted in the $12 paste and will be faithfully applying it at least once a day with the following murderous sentiment in my head: Die, ************, die.

For your reference: topical applications are best because there are adverse affects associated with taking high enough doses of the medications orally. Try to get the paste pre-made for you. The other student who had gotten CLM had to crush her pills with vaseline to make her own paste (literature suggests 10-15% for thiabendazole, which is supposed to be the most effective). There is no consensus on how many times a day you are supposed to reapply the ointment.

Update: Seems like a lot of people are running into this problem; I’ve linked to some pastes that have high ratings on Amazon: ivermectin, albendazole. Best to get it checked out by a doctor, though – it’s possible you’re encountering something more serious than CLM!

 

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35 responses to “How to kill the worm growing in your foot

  1. Glad that you found a solution, and it will hopefully be beneficial to other people some day. How do the local treat this problem and I assume that this is a common problem there? So, you were not the only one who caught larva infection?

    • It’s common enough that one of the pharmacies had a generic paste, but like I said, it will eventually go away on its own (after a few months). As I was purchasing the paste, I was very aware of how privileged I was to be buying this “unnecessary” medicine. Purchases around here are usually much less than $10!

      • miss or mrs. Katarina i would like to buy some of the thiabendazole paste from you if possible , i have a very bad parasite problem , they don’t have the drug i need in Canada thiabendazole , please help . my email is warboy@inet2000.com . thank you.
        sincerily Willard smith

      • Will, I don’t have any thiabendazole to sell. Can you look for ivermectin or albendazole, or any medicine for Larva Migrans? Canada’s going to have one of these drugs.

  2. My son who is seven has contracted this damn this at least twice per year for the past 3 years. Started in the Rupununi of Guyana and most recently in a sandy village name Kuru Kururu. Medex prescribed three doses mebendazole (once per day for 3 days) everytime he contracted this worm and it always got rid of them but I still wonder if there are any side effects to this treatment – I always thought that this dose was too much for his age.
    Does anyone have any info or experience with this treatment?

    • There’s really almost nothing publicly out there about this. I get the impression that as long as the treatment is topical, side effects are minimal. I didn’t want to take the oral treatment myself. Again, if you leave the worm in there, it’ll die off by itself… eventually.

  3. The hookworm does NOT just go away. The squiggly lines and rash go away because the parasite has found it’s way into your bloodstream where it travels to your lungs. When you cough, you spit it up and swallow it, which then puts it in your intestines where it lives for years, feeding off of your blood, possibly causing anemia. The adult females can lay 10,000 to 30,000 eggs each day, extending the infestation. You should take the anti-parasitic medicine orally, not just rub it on the initial point of entry. There are a few holistic meds that supposedly help but those also have side effects. :/ It is so scary to know those little buggers are in our bodies. I hope this helps a little… when you are faced with this infestation, you become an expert. A 3 day dose usually kills them all, but it is good to do a parasitic cleanse every now and then.

    • Thanks, Lisa. You’re talking about a hookworm that uses humans as its hosts, and it’s good for people to be aware that their squiggly line may not be just relatively harmless CLM.

  4. So you’re saying that when I leave it there it would die on it’s own ? I don’t know , But I got this feeling that I got them worms in my foot too .. I think I can really feel it move . If you have any suggestions please help me .

    • Hi Mike,

      I’m not a doctor and can’t give out medical advice: it’s possible that the worm in your foot uses humans as hosts, for which you NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR. I couldn’t feel the worm larva wiggling around; please get this checked out.

  5. Hi Folks, they DO NOT just go away and you may need to take some pretty heavy meds to comquer it but I have found washing with Lemons help get the Larvae out as well as sulfur mixed with water. I rub the sulfur onto my skin with tissue and they come out. I have recently started taking the MSM and vitamin C together. The MSM contains sulfur, It seems that more of the Larvae want to come out when I take the MSM(I take 4 capsules a day) and 4 C’s per day……… Reda

  6. I was recently at our State Park and contracted some sort of worms in both feet and hand. 1st thought was athletes foot, but not even. The inflammation is worse than the worm. Yes I feel it move if threatened by home remedy. The Menendazole applied more than recommend is not even hurting the worms only helps the inflammation. Worn out with home remedies and no sleep as that’s when they become more active. No lines either from them its more like a oval bump on me.
    Any advice?
    My doctor is seeking medication now from Canada as we are limited in the USA.

  7. Lynn please let me know if you have learned any further information my symptoms seem to be worse at night so maybe we have a similar problem I need sleep please help

  8. My babygirl (16 month old) got this ugly parasite in her foot, we were in Barbados for 2 weeks, and she was playing in sand, like all kids would do. right the next day we came back home to Canada i noticed few marks on her belly and arm, kind of like mosquito bites, it was not bad first but she kept scratching it, we went to doctor, but they thought it was some kind of allergy, can never trust doctors here! and in 3 weeks it wouldn’t go away, but worst of all- yesterday she got a very visible line on her foot, from that worm, around her big toe. We rushed to hospital today, but again, they don’t know what it is, even when i told them all information I found in internet about parasite they still gave us only a prescription for antibiotic, but our immune system does not react on this parasite, so I don’t think its good idea to give antibiotic.
    Anyway, I spent all day looking for more information and printed out pages with symptoms and pictures plus all treatments like – Albendazole (Albenza: Single 400 mg PO dose. This drug can be obtain through Health Canada’s Emergency Access Program .
    Thiabendazole (Mintezol) –25 mg/kg twice daily for 5 days. Also used topically 0.5 mg tablet crushed in 5 g of petroleum jelly daily for 5 days (high rate of relapse).
    Ivermectin (Stromectol): Single 12mg dose therapy
    I AM GOING TOMORROW WITH PRINTS TO PUT DOCTOR’S NOSE IN IT – MAY BE WE WILL FINALLY GET PROPER MEDICATION.
    The reason I am so worry because of my baby, she is so little but that thing inside her foot moves like 2 cm per day!
    Whoever travels – don’t lay on sand or don’t walk with bare feet please.
    I am sick and tired to fight with medical system in Canada. It is ridiculous how you must do all the research by yourself.
    ((((((

    • Hey Mil, hope your daughter will get the medication she needs and get well soon! It does seem like she has Cutaneous Larva Migrans, but since the worm is moving really fast, it could be a case of Larva Currens instead? (I came across this while I was researching, though the same medication is also used to treat this. Thought you may also bring this up with the doctors in case they challenge you again) I find that the worm stays in one place for around 3 days, then the tracks will lengthen by around 2cm, and itches like crazy, then it’ll stay there for another 3 days, then move again.

    • We were in Jamaica in January and we think my son has this he is 2.5 years old, just in one foot itchy raised line which is spreading. Did anyone have any other symptoms? He is totally fine except for the rash. We have been given a three day course of Mebendazole which we are halfway through…I wonder if it should have asked for this topically as he might have side effects??

    • I also came back from a holiday in Barbados November 2016 with a very itchy toe, which I though was a mosquito bite. The itching was excruciating and travelled onto my other toes and then the underneath of my foot. I consulted two different pharmacists and two different chiropodists here in the UK. I was diagnosed with athletes foot, a fungal infection and a veruca. Unfortunately I didn’t go to see my doctor which in retrospect I should have done. In January 2017 my foot was still as bad, itching all the time and driving me mad, all I could see was the tiniest of a mark and very faint tracking lines. I then travelled to South Africa for a holiday, my first stop was Port Elizabeth, I saw a sign for a clinic and so decided to go and see the doctor. Immediately he diagnosed a “sand worm”! Of course I was horrified! (I am in my 60’s by the way).
      The treatment was to blast the creature with liquid nitrogen and I was given one Zenitel 400. Immediately the itching stopped! From then on for a month all I had was a blister which was not uncomfortable at all after the pain and itching I had experienced. It’s now a further 4 weeks on and I have just started to experience a very small itchy part of the underneath of my foot again and can see the tiniest mark and so I visited my doctor who in fact hadn’t heard of a sand worm as it is a tropical disease and we don’t usually suffer with this in our country. That is why the pharmacist and chiropodist wrongly diagnosed.
      I was given another course of worm tablets (I don’t have the name), as in the UK I couldn’t be prescribed with the Zenitel.
      I now wait to see if this kills off any further lave/worms in my foot!
      Or if I am just being paranoid!!
      And so Mil I hope and pray you managed to get the right medication for your baby girl and that by now she is much much better, poor little thing, she must have been in so much discomfort, I can vouch for that!
      I also wonder where in Barbados, which beach you went to most of the time and where she may have picked it up, a difficult one I know. I have visited Barbados many, many times and have never caught anything like this before. We were staying on the West Coast.
      I hope to hear how your little girl is now and to warn anyone who has these symptoms to go and see their doctor straight away and not to suffer.

  9. Hey all,
    I sympathise with all you out there with CLM as I’m suffering from this stupid worm too after a trip to the Philippines last year. Yes, the worm has been there for 6 MONTHS now (while most research says the thing should die between 2-8 weeks, but has been known to live up to a year) and it’s ON MY BREAST. It’s left tracks all over my right breast and now it’s moving up towards my collar bone, and itches like crazy (at times painful) that I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to find myself scratching, which caused me considerable stress. For those curious about how much 6 months of damage can do, the larva migrans have now left a winding, snakelike track (raised and red where it’s new, and more faded when it’s left over time since it’s very itchy and I definitely scratched it) of around 40cm on me.

    The worst part of it all was that after spending over $6000HKD on dermatologists who have no idea what’s going on and telling me it’s eczema or fungal infection or whatever (possibly due to their lack of experience in treating parasites in Hong Kong), when one of them eventually suspected it could be larva migrans, HE CANNOT HELP ME BECAUSE HE CANNOT PRESCRIBE THE MEDICINE (Thiabendazole or Ivermectin) BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT REGISTERED IN HONG KONG. Then I was told to go to public hospitals where they MAY have the medication, but the waiting list for a public specialist clinic is until 2018 (it is Jan 2016 now). I’m extremely frustrated about it (while the worm is making itself comfortable in my boob decorating the walls and hanging up portraits of its family) and it seems if I can’t get any help here, a trip to Sydney is needed (where I’m originally from), since I found out you only a prescription from any ol’ GP to give you some Ivermectin.

    Also, through my research I found that Ivermectin single dose of 12mg (oral route) is probably most effective. I’m gonna keep trying to get this situation sorted (or just hope that it’ll eventually die away, and not stay for another 6 months). I understand it’s not life threatening, but it’s highly irritating.

    (FYI, I didn’t lie down on the sand, and my feet are fine. But I did have another insect bite on the side of my breast which I suspected was how the larva migrans got in. Didn’t even need to dig through the skin when it’s already damaged)

    • Gen, hope your son is ok! When I was in Dakar I was able to find mine at one of the two local drugstores/pharmacy/chemists (“pharmacies”) I visited.

  10. I contracted this exact worm from a shower which was not properly draining. I got it at a very expensive vacation resort in the US. I have taken Albendazole and Ivermectin. The worm multiplied very quickly and has spread throughout my body. In 5 weeks it has spread to the eyes and damaged my left pupil. It ate my left foot arch and both feet are going numb. My GI is passing solid food and I have permanent loose stools. The worms are nesting along the spinal column and bite at the skull base causing terrible headaches. I am post menapausal and have been bleeding eggs and bugs for days. Last night i went to ER and complained about the dizziness. I requested a test for anemia. They declined since US medical does not acknowledge parasites. I have been to ER 4 times in 5 weeks with no help.

    • Brenda, I’m going through the exact same thing. Pappa seeds. Crushed. – Or even amounts of honey pineapple and tobacco. This won’t cure u. But relief is relief. Also Sulfer soap. Bless your heart..

    • Brenda….. Had this for 10 years….. Nobody believes you except the people who know your health record for your lifetime….. Retiring with a year of sick leave never taken….. Donating another year to terminal people who have used all their sick leave!
      I take a trip to the Grand Caymans and have never been the same since! Tons of stool samples and negative results! I feel for all of you! Doctors are NO help!

    • Dear Brenda,
      I dont know if you have found a solution to the problem you stated here but i share your pain as i am going thruogh the same thing and i think like me you dont only have a worm infestation but protozoas like ameobas as well,what has worked for me has been praziquental liqiud for fish ofcourse because in the UK parasites dont exist to the doctors.i have also found oxy-klenze helpfull its an oxygenated supplement and as parasites and protozoas hate oxygen it sends them straight to hell when i drink it or just place a pill on the top of my mouth.i adverse you try these out as the battle against parasites is fought only by us the “infected”.i hope this helps

    • I too have had a larva migran start from a trip abroad which initially was treated with Ivermectin. The prescription worked well for internal infection, but the cutaneous migran manifested into a 8×6 inch infestation on my right thigh. After second treatment of Ivermectin, I now have infection in both eyes, hands, and secondary infection on top of once was 8×6 which is now 8×10 inch map of trails and inflammation. After multiple doctors, ER visits and treatments, I feel hopeless.
      Not sure I will survive this infection.

      Warning: Do Not Use Steroid treatments, such as prednisone, of any kind as this has beven known to rampant infection by 4-6x average infestation rate.

  11. My husband has had these same symptoms for about three weeks….he didn’t have any problem until he came out of the hospital. He never ever goes barefoot inside or outside so is there a chance he contracted it in the hospital?

  12. I got a Cutaneous larva migrans as well on my foot for about 2 months but only in the last week started to move. That’s where I realized also thanks to this website what it really was! so thank you guys for sharing your stories. Today I went in 5 different hospitals in 2 of which they didn’t even believed me and refused to treat me for something that they said was absurd and never heard before! other hospitals bounced me from one place to another.. and eventually I found a doctor (a virologist I think) which was willing to listen and admitted that was possible.. he requester a blood test. After half an hour just by looking at the test results he agreed with me an my diagnosis. Prescribed me some pills.. albendazole 0.4 mg twice a day for about 10 days. he also told me that ivermectin might work as well. I am in china and he at the moment was running out of stock and asked me to get from a regular pharmacy, so no prescription needed! Suprised to hear then that in Hong Kong this is not available. [Here is super easy to buy] (for Iris: I don’t think you needed to go to sydney) I in fact often had problem in the past with doctors in australia. Anyway I started the treatment and let’s hope for the best. By the way I think I most definitely got it in Thailand walking bare feet .. I remember now there was a path i had to go across where sewer smelly like water leaking from the floor. Said now sound really stupid to still have walked there!

    • Hey Sam,
      Hope the larva migran on your feet goes away soon! I ended up having ivermectin posted to me from Australia, but didn’t end up taking it because the worm went away on its own. That’s 7 months of it moving around before it died ><

    • Already from the first day treatment it stop moving/itching. St the second day (now) I feel actually much better and the path it made starting healing. Irisangela I would suggest you to take the meds anyway, you never know… It might have laid eggs .. could be dormant or undetected for years.. you know these kind of parasites do that. One course treatment cost you nothing but ensure you safeness for the future. You know? better safe than sorry! right? :-)

  13. I have a parasite problem and its the same thing with the doctors I have been to. They dont believe or just dont have an understanding of parasites. These worms are all over. I feel them In my legs my feet my head my ears my intestines. I tried levamisol syrup and got a bad reaction. Respiratory issues heart racing were the side effects. Be careful of taking levamisol. It is used on animals

  14. Hi guys, I had contracted the migrating larvae in Jamaica, but when I went to my doctors in Minnesota, they had no idea what it was. I finally got the Merck Manual and found it myself (this was pre-google!) and took the information in about the parasite and its treatment. The dermatologist was so excited to see this condition in real life that he brought his students in and they were all taking pictures of my foot!
    I did use the topical anti=parasite cream and it worked.

    I found out later, by talking to Jamaicans, that the home remedy they use is to paint fingernail polish all along the track and all around the end of the visible track- this starves the larvae of oxygen so they either come to the surface or die in situ.

    Hope this helps someone!
    aloha! CJT

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