WARNING - GRAPHIC IMAGES
A young Canadian couple who recently returned from holiday in the Dominican Republic are warning vacationers not to get the 'sand between your toes' after picking up some nasty parasites.
Katie Stephens, 22, and Eddie Zytner, 25 said that their feet became noticeably itchy in the middle of their week-long getaway to the Caribbean earlier this month after strolling the beaches of the IFA Villas Bavaro Resort in Punta Cana.
"[We] found that we were scratching our feet quite a bit," Stephens told CTV News on Friday, adding that they had heard about sand fleas and "kind of assumed it was that at first."
But after returning home to Ontario on January 18, Zytner said he became alarmed when he noticed his feet had become severely swollen and small bumps had developed on his toes, the Daily Mail reported.
The couple decided to seek medical attention for their malady, but the first two doctors who were tasked with treating them were left stumped.
Luckily, a third doctor was able to diagnose their condition, having seen similar symptoms from a tourist who recently traveled to Thailand.
The physician informed them that they had contracted larva migrans, more commonly known as hookworms, most likely as they walked around the beach barefoot.
Hookworms found in the Caribbean can enter into human skin if it comes in contact with an infected surface, according to CTV News.
Doctors said the condition can be treated with a medication called ivermectin, Stephens wrote in a Facebook post about the ordeal.
Unfortunately for the couple, they ran into a problem.
"We found out that Health Canada had denied our request to receive the medication saying our case wasn't severe enough. At that point, that's when we freaked out a little," she said.
The situation, however, was resolved when Stephens' mother volunteered to drive into nearby Detroit, Michigan and pick up the medication from the pharmacy.
Despite still using crutches, the medicine has provided a marked improvement in the three days since beginning the treatment.
"They [his feet] feel better," Zytner told CTV News. "They looked a little bit better yesterday. We're getting our bandages changed again… so we'll have another chance to look at them and see how it's progressing."
The couple said they wanted to post their experience to Facebook to raise awareness in other travelers and possibly help doctors who encounter the condition in the future.
"We want to make it known to more doctors what it is, what to look for and stuff because it took us a few trips to the hospital to find out what it was," Zytner said.