What Is a Creeping Eruption?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2019
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Creeping eruption is a skin infection. It is caused by hookworm larvae, the eggs of which are commonly found in the feces of animals such as dogs and cats. The condition is also commonly known as sandworms and ground itch or by the scientific term cutaneous larva migrans. It is characterized by a red, stringy rash that spreads across the skin.

The rash develops when hookworm larvae burrow under the top layers of epidermis. As they spread across the skin, groups of curling red marks will appear. The larvae is not able to penetrate the lower layers of human skin, though they can with animals.

Outbreaks of creeping eruption are most common in warm surroundings. The larva flourishes in sandy, moist earth. It is usually not a serious condition, but it can be deadly if not treated, particularly with more sensitive individuals such as children. This can often be the case in areas with few medical resources.

A creeping eruption rash will typically be extremely itchy and even painful. This discomfort can only be stopped by killing the parasites. Most patients are advised not to scratch the rash, as this can cause infection and greatly increase pain. Depending on the severity of the outbreak, in some cases the infection will go away without treatment.


If it does not eventually disappear, a creeping eruption outbreak can be treated with several methods. Thiabendazole pills are commonly prescribed to kill the parasites. In order to avoid the nausea associated with the pills, they may be crushed and then added to petroleum jelly so that they can be applied topically. Other oral medications such as ivermectin and albendazolecan can also be effective. Over-the-counter itch creams may help to manage symptoms.

A doctor may also attempt to treat the condition externally by freezing the surface of the skin. The application of liquid nitrogen or ethyl cholride is the most common method. This more direct method can be unpredictable, and its success depends upon the severity of the condition and the way a particular group of larva reacts to being frozen.

The hookworm larva that causes creeping eruption is the young form of a type of roundworm. Though it can develop in the feces of an animal, it may also enter its body via the skin. Once it has penetrated the body, a larva will often travel from the windpipe to the digestive system. It is then expelled via the bowels, infecting the waste after sickening the animal.


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