What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is toxocariasis?

Toxocariasis is a rare but potentially serious infection caught by humans from animal faeces. It's caused by roundworm parasites whose eggs pass through the digestive systems of foxes and dogs via their faeces, which in turn contaminate soil.

The parasite is most often picked up through contact with contaminated soil, which can then be transferred to the mouth from underneath fingernails. If anyone ingests roundworm eggs, they may develop toxocariasis, which develops when the eggs, after hatching in the bowel, travel to different parts of the body.

Toxocariasis, although rare, with only around 10 cases a year reported in England, generally affects under-fives.

What are the symptoms of Toxocariasis?

There are several ways toxocariasis can affect the body, with varying symptoms. The infection can range from mild to severe. Depending on where the parasites travel to, symptoms can range from abdominal pain, cough and headache to breathlessness and fever, distorted vision or even – in very rare cases – blindness, usually in one eye only. Don't panic if you suspect your child has ingested soil, though, as toxocariasis is very rare and eye complications are rarer still.

What are the treatments and remedies of Toxocariasis?

Most people who are treated for toxocariasis make a full recovery without long term consequences. Medication is prescribed to kill the parasites within the body.

The risk of blindness is now very small because treatment has become more advanced. If they eyes are affected, steroid medication can help ease symptoms and laser therapy can kill the parasites within the eye.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net