A Canadian couple who recently returned home following a vacation in the Dominican Republic have issued a warning to fellow tropical tourists — always wear shoes when walking on the beach.
The young Ontario couple said their feet first became itchy earlier this month while they were staying at the IFA Villas Bavaro Resort in Punta Cana. Believing they had been the victim of nothing more than a few bug bites, they weren’t particularly concerned.
“For a lot of our trip, we found that we were scratching our feet quite a bit,” Eddie Zytner, 25, told CTV News. “Sand fleas we had heard about so we kind of assumed it was that at first.”
But his feet gradually got worse. First, they started swelling, and over the next few days, small bumps began to appear on his toes. Several doctors at the hospital had little to not idea what was going on. They gave him bandages, but didn’t do much else.
Meanwhile, the same thing started happening to his girlfriend, 22-year-old Katie Stephens.
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“I had a lot of itchiness during the trip,” she said. “I think I might have complained about it a little bit more that my feet were really itchy, but mine didn’t start swelling and everything until about the Sunday night.”
Eventually, the couple went to the hospital again, where a doctor was finally able to identify the issue. He said the pair had contracted larva migrans — parasites that “enter the skin if it comes in contact with an infected surface,” according to CTV News.
The couple would later post photos of their parasite-infested feet to Facebook in order to warn fellow travelers about the importance of wearing shoes when walking on the beach.
“To anybody travelling somewhere tropical, please be careful when in the sand and wear shoes!” Stephens wrote.
Her boyfriend, meanwhile, noted that “most doctors have never seen” his condition before.
“(I)f your feet begin to have an itch, swell or blister or look like mine, get those hooves checked out! It may not be what your doctor thinks,” he wrote.
“All this just from walking barefoot on the beach,” Zytner added. “So, anyone travelling.. check with your resort and see if the beaches around you are cleaned regularly. And it’s best to wear shoes on the beach as much as possible!”
In order to treat these parasites — which are also known as hookworms — the doctor recommended a drug called Ivermectin. But in order to obtain this drug, he needed to send a request to the Canadian national health department, as well as specific information about the couple and pictures of their feet.
But still, Health Canada would not give them the drug, reasoning the damage to their feet wasn’t serious enough to warrant the treatment.
“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,” Stephens said.
The couple did eventually get the drug, but only after Zytner’s mother drove to Detroit and paid more than $70 out of pocket.
Now, they say their condition has finally approved, though still need crutches to help them walk.
“They (his feet) feel better,” Zytner said. “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.”
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