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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Itchy Parasite
January 2000

Q. My boyfriend and I both contracted a skin condition that we noticed shortly after returning from a Mexican holiday. We both had (and still do, 2 months later) itchy red bumps under and around our belly buttons. We assumed they were flea bites from our dog, so we treated the dog. The rash remained. It seems to come and go in waves. For a couple weeks, it will be intensely itchy, then it will pass, convincing us it's healed. The rash is usually the most itchy at night. Can you help out?

A. The fact that you were in Mexico just prior to the onset of you and your boyfriend's symptoms makes me suspicious that you may have picked up a type of parasitic infection. Scabies is one of the most common parasitic causes of an itchy skin rash. The cause is a mite that burrows into the skin and causes intense itching. The diagnosis can be made by doing a skin scraping and looking for the mite under a microscope.

It can be cured with anti parasitic cream such as Elimite. However, because there may be other causes of your symptoms, it would be prudent to see a dermatologist. In the interim, taking an oral antihistamine such as benadryl may give you some relief. Also, if it is scabies, you will need to wash all of your clothes and bedding thoroughly.

Ref: http://content.health.msn.com/content/asset/adam_disease_scabies

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