What are hookworms?
In most every family, there are some relatives you'd just rather not talk about. In the bug world, they're parasites known as hookworms. You sure don't want these creepy creatures to worm their way into your system.
Barefoot people who live in hot climates face the greatest risks of getting hookworms, which are found worldwide in more than 900 million people. And it all begins with warm soil contaminated by human feces, where hookworm larvae live. When an unsuspecting host walks by, they spring into action by burrowing their way through the soles of the feet. Then they're sent off on a really wild ride. The larvae migrate within the body to the veins and hitch a ride to the lungs. There, the worms break through, travel to the throat, and get swallowed. Still with me? Okay, then the worms end up in the upper small intestine and attach themselves to its lining, sucking on the human host's blood. If this happens to you, you could experience weird symptoms like a change in your hair color and texture, plus your fingernails could cave in.
In the Southeast, public health experts have nearly made hookworm invasions a thing of the past. But it always pays to be on the safe side, and you'll probably find your best defense strategy resting right by your door: shoes. Wearing them when you're outside is the one sure way to avoid getting hooked by these parasites.