Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pale hands and feet

As you might imagine, South America is home to many parasites. Hookworm infections used to be very common in the Southeastern part of the US years ago but not so much these days. Living in the jungle, however, you come across them in unusual ways. In August, this little guy was admitted to the hospital with weakness and pallor. You can see how pale he was from the palms of his hands. He was found to have a hemoglobin of only 2! (it's a measure of a body's red blood cells and normally between 10 and 13 at this age). If this blood loss had happened acutely, he'd have gone into shock and died.

The cause of his anemia was quickly discovered to be related to a hookworm infection. Typically the larvae from contaminated soil burrows into the feet of a person and travels through the blood stream to the lungs where they migrate to the throat area and are swallowed. They then travel to the small intestine and set up shop - attaching themselves to the walls of the bowel and feeding off of the blood supply.

This infant was given a transfusion and proper parasite medicine and left doing much better. Education remains a big part of the treatment to help prevent reinfection.


  1. my son has a hook worm in his hand. what should i do. can i just give him a zentel. He is 2yrs old

    1. Zentel (albendazole) is used for the treatment of hookworm and can be used in a 2 year old. The dosage is based on their weight but I would be sure that his hand is checked out by a physician to be sure that it is a cutaneous hookworm infection and not something else. Hope this helps.