Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii.
The parasite can get into your body if you:
- eat raw or undercooked meat
- eat fruit or uncooked vegetables contaminated by poo from a toxoplasmosis-infected cat
- accidentally swallow soil contaminated by poo from a toxoplasmosis-infected cat.
Children and adults with weak immune systems are most at risk of toxoplasmosis.
Pregnant women who get toxoplasmosis can pass it to their babies. Babies who get toxoplasmosis in the womb can be very unwell when they’re born and need close monitoring. Toxoplasmosis can cause problems with babies’ hearing, vision and development. Sometimes it can cause a rash and liver, spleen and bone marrow problems.
Most children and adults who get toxoplasmosis have no symptoms at all.
Sometimes your child might have a swollen lymph gland, most commonly in the neck. Sometimes an infected person will have fatigue and muscle aches.
Toxoplasmosis can cause chorioretinitis. This is a rare condition that results in blurred vision and dark, floating spots in front of the eyes. Older children are more likely than younger children to have this symptom.
Medical help for toxoplasmosis symptoms or contact with toxoplasmosis
You should take your child to the GP if your child has:
- unexplained swelling of their glands, especially in their neck
- unexplained headaches or fever
- blurred vision or dark floating spots in their vision.
It’s very important to take your child to the GP if they have a weakened immune system and have the symptoms described above.
See your doctor immediately if you’re pregnant and you think you might be infected.
You know your child best. If your child seems unwell, trust your instincts and seek medical attention.
Most children infected with toxoplasmosis don’t need treatment.
Children with severe symptoms or eye disease will probably be given antibiotics.
Prevention of toxoplasmosis
You can reduce the risk of getting toxoplasmosis by avoiding raw or undercooked meat and washing fruit, raw vegetables and ready-to-eat salads thoroughly before eating.
Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food and after any outdoor activity involving contact with soil.
Wearing gloves while changing cat litter trays or when gardening can also help you avoid toxoplasmosis.