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Toxocara (Toxocariasis, Visceral Larva Migrans)

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GENERAL INFORMATION

DESCRIPTION
Toxocara is a disorder resulting from invasion of larvae of worms normally found in the intestines of dogs and cats. These same larvae cause a skin disease (larva migrans or creeping eruption) if they invade no deeper than the skin. If they invade deeper tissues of humans they may affect many organs, including the eye, liver, lungs, and heart, and the central nervous system. Toxocara may affect older children and adults, but it normally affects young children aged 2 to 4. The incubation period inside the human body varies from weeks to months after ingesting the larvae. This disease is not contagious from one infected child to another.

Appropriate health care includes:

  • Self-care after diagnosis.
  • Physician’s monitoring of general condition and medications.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fever.
  • Cough or wheezing.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Enlarged liver.
  • Skin rash.
  • Enlarged spleen.
  • Eye lesions and vision problems.

CAUSES
The embryonated eggs of Toxocara canis and cati, parasites found in soil contaminated by the feces of dogs and cats.

RISK FACTORS

  • Playing in children’s sandboxes.
  • Owning a dog or cat.

PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE

  • Your child should avoid areas likely to be contaminated by dog and cat feces.
  • Deworm pet dogs and cats regularly.
  • Cover your child’s sandbox when not in use.
  • Your child should always wash hands after playing with animals.

BASIC INFORMATION

MEDICAL TESTS

  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Skin test, blood test for eosinophiles, liver biopsy, and fluorescent antibody tests.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS
Serious complications if the child’s liver, heart, or eye are involved.

PROBABLE OUTCOME
Complete cure. Self-limited (6 to 18 months) for mild cases. Appropriate treatment results in a quicker cure.

TREATMENT

HOME CARE

  • Employ preventive measures to keep your child from getting re-infected.
  • Give your child the prescribed medication as directed.

MEDICATION
Your physician may prescribe a special anti-parasite drug such as thiabendazole.

ACTIVITY

  • If actively infected, your child should keep away from all animals and potentially contaminated areas for a minimum of 6 months.
  • Otherwise, no restrictions.

DIET & FLUIDS
No restrictions.

OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?
Yes, when condition and sense of well-being will allow.

CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF

  • Your child has symptoms of toxocara.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.

From the Complete Guide to Pediatric Symptoms, Illness & Medications by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. © 1989 The Putnam Berkley Group, Inc.; electronic rights by Medical Data Exchange.

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