Exploring the garden, you might stumble upon a land snail, its shell a spiral of mysteries. While you’re likely safe to gently scoop it up, there’s a caveat: the snail’s slime, though not inherently dangerous, can harbor pathogens such as the concerning rat lungworm.

So, what should you do if you decide to interact with land snails from your backyard?

Key Takeaways

  • Land snails can carry pathogens like rat lungworm, posing health risks.
  • Always wear gloves when handling snails to prevent disease transmission.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after touching snails or their habitats.
  • Supervise children around snails to ensure safe interaction.
  • Be aware of local wildlife regulations regarding handling snails.

What Happens When a Land Snail Touches Your Skin?

Image Source: Britannica

When a land snail touches your skin, its slime can potentially expose you to harmful pathogens like the rat lungworm( Source).

If you’re involved in activities that include contact with snails, wearing gloves can be a simple yet effective precaution.

Handling a land snail might seem safe and educational, but it’s vital to prioritize hygiene and knowledge about the potential risks.

What Is Rat Lungworm Disease?

Rat lungworm disease, or angiostrongyliasis, is caused by Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a parasitic nematode. Humans typically become infected by ingesting larvae from contaminated raw or undercooked snails, slugs, or other hosts.

The larvae can invade the brain, causing a rare form of meningitis.

Symptoms include severe headaches, neck stiffness, nausea, and neurological problems. It is most common in tropical regions, some parts of Africa, particularly Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Prevention is possible and it involves proper handling and cooking of potential host foods.

How Do Land Snails Get Rat Lungworm?

Land snails become infected with rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) by ingesting the parasite’s larvae present in rat feces. Rats are primary hosts, harboring adult worms that reproduce in their lungs.

The larvae are excreted in rat faeces, which contaminate vegetation or surfaces where snails reside and feed.

When snails consume the contaminated material, they ingest the larvae, completing part of the parasite’s lifecycle.

Is Land Snail Slime Dangerous?

Land snail slime, often thought to be harmless and even beneficial, actually poses a risk of transmitting serious diseases such as rat lungworm.

Rat lungworm is a parasite that can lead to serious health issues, including a type of meningitis. This isn’t just a concern for your own health, but also for everyone looking into getting a land snail as a pet.

You might feel tempted to let children handle land snails, particularly during educational activities. However, it’s vital to supervise such interactions closely and make sure that everyone washes their hands thoroughly afterwards.

This isn’t just about preventing disease; it’s about setting a responsible example.

When you’re serving in communities, particularly in areas where snails are common, educating others about the potential dangers becomes part of your role.

How to Tell if You Are Allergic to Snail Slime?

To determine if you are allergic to snail slime, observe for symptoms such as redness, itching, swelling, or rash at the site of contact following exposure.

These reactions typically occur within minutes to hours. For a more definitive diagnosis, consult a healthcare professional or allergist who can conduct appropriate tests, such as a patch test.

This involves applying a small amount of snail slime to the skin under medical supervision to monitor for an allergic reaction.

A positive test confirms sensitivity to snail slime, guiding avoidance and management strategies.

Do Garden Snails Carry Disease?

Garden snails can indeed transmit diseases, including the serious rat lungworm infection that affects the brain and spinal cord. Wash your hands thoroughly afterward to protect yourself and those you serve from potential health risks.

Besides rat lungworm, garden snails can also be carriers of other parasites that are less known but can still pose important health threats.

Keep in mind, Garden snails often thrive in environments that can harbor numerous bacteria and parasites.

When you’re gardening or in contact with soil that snails have inhabited, wearing gloves can be a simple yet effective way to reduce the risk of transmission.

Do African Land Snails Bite?

Image Source: London Zoo

You might wonder if African land snails bite. Well, they actually don’t have teeth suitable for biting. Instead, these gentle giants use a radula, a ribbon-like structure lined with tiny teeth, to scrape their food rather than bite it.

This means there’s no guarantee of them biting you as a defence mechanism or out of aggression.

Their slow movements and intriguing eating habits can offer a moment of peace and fascination in our often hectic lives. Handling them gently not only ensures their safety but also allows you to serve as a compassionate steward of nature.

What to Do if You Find a Land Snail?

If you stumble upon a land snail, it’s important to know how to handle the encounter safely and responsibly. Here is what you should do;

  • First off, consider the snail’s well-being. Gently pick it up by its shell, not its sensitive body, to avoid causing any harm.
  • It’s best to use soft gloves or a cloth to minimize stress for the creature and protect yourself from potential pathogens.
  • Check the local regulations concerning wildlife. In some places, like parts of the USA, certain snail species are prohibited due to their impact on local ecosystems.
  • If you’re unsure about the species or legal guidelines, it’s safer to leave the snail where you found it.
  • If you decide to move the snail, place it in a natural area away from roads or potential hazards.
  • Snails are beneficial to the environment; they participate in the decomposition process and help in nutrient cycling.
  • Lastly, wash your hands thoroughly after handling any wildlife, including snails. This step is essential to prevent the spread of any diseases the snail might carry.


As you contemplate the humble land snail, keep in mind the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare—slow and steady wins the race. Approach these creatures with the same caution and respect.

Don gloves to shield yourself from unseen threats lurking in their innocuous slime. By doing so, you not only protect your health but also maintain the delicate balance of nature.

Thank you for reading.

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