A woman wrote to us about getting infested with horsehair worms while visiting Costa Rica, and wanted advice on how to permanently rid herself of them.
The above image was not sent in by the reader, but displays what horsehair worms look like fully-grown. As one can see, these creatures are beige in color, with brown tips on both ends, with an opening on their posterior that makes their end somewhat hook-shaped (image below). These worms are round but thin, almost resembling spaghetti from afar. They are lengthy creatures, being 4-inches or longer but are only 1/80 to 1/10 of an inch in diameter, according to the entomology department at the University of Kentucky.
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Horsehair worms are attracted to moisture and reside by sources of water such as streams, water troughs, or puddles. These worms are parasitic creatures and feed on other critters like grasshoppers and beetles. As larvae, these worms bore into these other unfortunate creatures and stay there until they mature. Then they leave the host, mate with another horsehair worm and soon the cycle is repeated.
What is interesting is that upon researching horsehair worms, it is stated that they are, in fact, not parasitic to humans at all. Although there are a few cases of horsehair worms accidentally taking on humans, pets, or livestock as hosts, this is not supposed to happen.
For this reason, we are not sure that our reader is actually infested with horsehair worms, but perhaps with something else. Unfortunately, in regards to our reader’s unfortunate situation, there is not much help we can provide in terms of dealing with the infestation. This situation is clearly a medical situation. As we are not medical professionals, we cannot provide medical advice, and encourage our reader to seek a doctor for treatment, as well as an infectious disease specialist in her area. They will have more credible, first-hand experience in the field of dealing with parasites. Only professionals will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment. We recommend Googling something along the lines of ‘infectious disease specialist in Bakersfield, California.’ Obviously, if any other readers fear they have a similar issue, then Google the same thing but with your given location.
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In conclusion, while we are not certain that our reader has been infested with horsehair worms, given that they tend to only infest insects, if our reader is certain that they are infested with something, we highly recommend seeing a medical professional and/or a parasite specialist to provide proper diagnosis and treatment. Although we are unable to provide medical advice and aid, we hope that this information has been of some use to our reader, and the best of luck to her!