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Q: Last month, my three best friends and I took our annual long weekend getaway to Florida. It was a blast, but now four weeks later, my wrists, waist and underarms have broken out in tiny red pimples that itch like crazy, especially in the morning. I figure it must be something I did while we were away. Any ideas?

Dr. Donnica:
You need to see a dermatologist who will examine you thoroughly and may conduct a painless test to examine a lesion under a microscope. You may have contracted scabies, a terribly itchy skin condition caused by the infestation of a tiny mite that burrows under the skin and lays eggs. The eggs produce toxins to which you have an allergic reaction but the reaction itself often takes 4 to 5 weeks to fully develop.

Contrary to popular opinion, scabies is not a reflection of your personal hygiene; scabies can affect anyone. Chances are that you increased your risk by sharing close quarters with three friends, each of whom should be checked out as well.

The good news is that scabies is treatable. Your doctor may recommend a cream or lotion such as permetrin cream 5% or lindane lotion 1%, although there is an oral medication available (ivermectin) for the advanced form (once the lesions have crusted over). To relieve the itching, your doctor may prescribe antihistamines, but until your appointment, you can start taking over-the-counter Benadryl, so long as you don't plan to drive after taking it.

All of your bedding, clothing and towels must be thoroughly cleaned with the hottest possible water. Vacuum your house or apartment thoroughly and discard the bag. Because the incubation time is 6 to 8 weeks, all of your close friends, sexual partners and housemates must be treated as well, whether or not they have symptoms. Pets do not require treatment.

Created: 4/8/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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