AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Roundworm infections in young children are on the rise because of a typical childhood activity, playing in sandboxes.
Animals such as raccoons, feral cats, and other woodland creatures use sandboxes as litter boxes.
Their fecal matter can contain roundworm eggs, which children ingest. Yet, children don't get sick right away because it takes about 2 to 4 weeks for the eggs to become infectious.
"If you just spotted a raccoon problems you want to take concerns and do measures to get it relocated to a better area and clean your surroundings, but just know that it's not infectious until two to fours weeks until after the feces has actually come out of the body it's not immediate," Wildlife Rehabilitator, Stephanie Oravetz said.
Raccoon Roundworms are now diagnosed more frequently and experts warn they are one of the most dangerous forms of roundworms.
If the disease goes untreated it can lead to serious health problems or even death.
"The child actually only has to ingest one egg from the fecal material that can cause some serious effects," Kathryn Kleman, Family Nurse Practitioner at BSA Family Medical Clinic, said. "You can have from the normal gastrointestinal upset of vomiting and diarrhea, to changes in their vision, some neurological symptoms where there's changes in their mentation, their ability to answer questions, and how they act normally."
Oravetz said cleaning a sandbox after infected feces are found is a lot of work.
"It's pretty resistant to a lot of cleaning materials, so you either have to use boiled water they also recommend a flame torch, which sounds pretty aggressive but it's the truth," Oravetz said. "I mean its pretty resistant or take those things and take them to the landfill."
Kleman said parents don't have to avoid sandboxes, they just have to teach their kids not to touch their faces or mouths while playing.
"I think it can be safe to play in a sandbox, I think the thing you have to remember is teach them you know when your around something never touch your eyes, nose, or mouth," Kleman said. "Play with your toys, come out and wash your hands before you eat or drink, and then you can play more. The big deal is preventing that hand to oral route."