Unsettling TikTok Shows Why Tourists May Think Twice Before Going To An Australian Beach

TikTok is the go-to platform for amateur dancers, wellness influencers, and ... worms? If your "For You" page is filled with Australia travel videos, you might have come across (and shuddered at) clips of the country's frightening beach worms.

One video posted by user @fley.mp4, which has garnered almost 30,000 "likes" to date, shows a person holding a dead fish to the sand to attract one of the creepy worms. Sure enough, a head pokes out from beneath the ground, latching onto the fish. Even more nightmare-inducing: The person grabs the worm with his bare hands (later, he sensibly uses pliers) and pulls it out of the sand to reveal a multi-foot-long beast. In his video, the creator shares that beach worms are commonly found along Australian coasts and are known to reach 10 feet in length. Though Australia may be home to the top-ranked beach in the world, you might want to think twice before spending your vacation lounging around in the sand.

Are beach worms dangerous?

The reason for the dead fish in the TikTok clip is simple: Australian beach worms love to feast on pieces of fish and other animals. While a meat-eating worm might sound chilling, these creatures pose no threat to humans. They tend to stay hidden deep under the sand, unless provoked with food. Fishers are known to lure the worms to the surface to use them as fishing bait — otherwise, you may never see one.

If you do coax the beach worms out of the sand, however, you might notice their sharp teeth made for grinding up fish tails and other food. These teeth can pierce your skin if you're not careful (which is why you'll notice people usually using pliers to handle the worms in the TikTok clips, rather than their bare fingers), but they're unlikely to do any damage.

Though beach worms aren't as dangerous as they may appear, you can avoid accidental run-ins by keeping your shoes on at the beach and, well, not carrying a stinky bag of fish scraps around. You can also avoid beaches on Australia's eastern and southeastern coasts, where the worms tend to live. In other words, reconsider a trip down Australia's Great Ocean Road and to hotspots like the gorgeous Bondi Beach coastline.

Hookworms pose a bigger threat

With their gnarly teeth and jaw-dropping length, it's easy to see why beach worms would draw so much attention on social media. However, hookworms are even scarier, according to Dr. Samuel Choudhury, a medical general practitioner. The doctor, who goes by @skingapore on TikTok, posted a clip warning beachgoers of the parasites. As he explained, hookworms can contaminate the sand when an infected animal leaves droppings behind on the beach. Then, when a person touches the sand, the hookworms can bury themselves in the skin, where they'll stay until the person receives antiparasitic treatment.

While Dr. Choudhury refers to a case involving a teenager in Florida throughout his video, Australian beaches can also contain hidden hookworms. The medical expert told Daily Mail, "A study done in Australia (published in 2022) showed that about 10% of canine stool samples acquired from dog parks across Australia contained hookworms." When those dogs head to the beach with their owners, they could be leaving parasites in the sand.

Hookworms are mostly found in northern Australia, as President of the Australian Society for Parasitology Rebecca Traub revealed to Yahoo News Australia. She added: "People going to those areas should be careful that they don't expose their skin to soil or sand, which could be contaminated with dog and cat faeces."