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Help identifying rash on lower back
December 31, 2011 9:34 AM   Subscribe

In a tropical country, very itchy rash or bite, no doctor for the next few days. Can anyone help identify?

Doubt I'm in imminent danger, but maybe knowing what this is would take my mind off the itchiness. I've been in a tropical country for a few weeks and have several bajillion mosquito bites, which is what I assumed this was until I looked at it. It showed up three days ago, it's raised and bumpy, and I guess burns more than itches: Pictures here (sorry about the blurriness, not great at photographing my lower back).

Things that might be relevant:
- I've been taking antibiotics for a few months, with no signs of allergies
- No new soaps, detergents or clothes
- Haven't really walked through a lot of plants
- Was at the beach a few days before it appeared
- There are bugs EVERYWHERE
- All the other bites I have are behaving like normal mosquito bites
- I have cats here who go outside and then cuddle with me (they were treated with Advantage recently)

Also, besides cortisone cream and aloe, is there anything I can do? Thank you!
posted by ke rose ne to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
 
Doesn't look bitey or scratchy or poisony...could it be a hive from worrying about bugs? :) When I've had hives, they have definitely run a cycle where they're itchy when coming up and kind of burning feeling when going away.
posted by rhizome at 10:21 AM on December 31, 2011


I would put coconut oil on it. It's antibacterial and soothing for your skin. Looks like a rash I get from a gluten allergy or maybe sun poisoning , but I am no Dr.

Be well. Good luck
posted by ibakecake at 10:29 AM on December 31, 2011


I think that could be virtually anything, though I have never seen a bit present that way. It could be poison ivy or oak or whatever the tropical equivalent is, but what I wanted to say is that when I got staph, that's what it looked like. When you were at the beach, were you by any chance diving or snorkeling?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:30 AM on December 31, 2011


burns more than itches

This looks like how my shingles presented. Could the bumps be blisters? Is it just on one side or does it cross the spinal column?
posted by Stewriffic at 11:01 AM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Note: I'm not a doctor, I'm just really allergic to everything around me.

It looks like acute uticaria (aka "hives") which can become chronic uticaria if it doesn't go away. When I've had a flare up (I have a ton of allergies, some of which cause hives) I usually take Zyrtec (citirizine) for 5-10 days until it goes away. It's OTC here in the States, so might be as well wherever you are.

Uticaria can be caused by anything, from bugs to allergies to nothing at all. If it is an allergy, they can come on very quickly, so I wouldn't discount a newly acquired allergy to an antibiotic or latex. Latex allergies usually come with a whole slew of other things you're now allergic to like bananas, avocados, melons, bandaids and old fashioned telephone cords.

It could be staph, but usually that looks more like spider bites and hurts a lot.
posted by fiercekitten at 11:14 AM on December 31, 2011


It could be poison ivy or oak or whatever the tropical equivalent is, but what I wanted to say is that when I got staph, that's what it looked like. When you were at the beach, were you by any chance diving or snorkeling?

No diving or snorkeling, I was only in the water for a few minutes 'cause I have a newish tattoo on my upper back (there has also been no sun exposure for the same reason).

Could the bumps be blisters? Is it just on one side or does it cross the spinal column?

Just on one side. It's hard to examine, but they don't seem to be blisters, though the pics do look similar.

Uticaria can be caused by anything, from bugs to allergies to nothing at all. If it is an allergy, they can come on very quickly, so I wouldn't discount a newly acquired allergy to an antibiotic or latex. Latex allergies usually come with a whole slew of other things you're now allergic to like bananas, avocados, melons, bandaids and old fashioned telephone cords.

Aw man, that would suck. I'm hoping it isn't allergies. I hate allergies.
posted by ke rose ne at 11:23 AM on December 31, 2011


Just on one side is what shingles does. It's supposed to burn/hurt/itch quite a bit, but in my case wasn't that bad--because I take anti-seizure meds that happen to also be used as a treatment for shingles in extreme cases.
posted by Stewriffic at 11:27 AM on December 31, 2011


I am not a doctor, but I do have a lot of allergies and have had skin staph infections. From the photo, it looks like it could be some kind of allergy. You could try the hydrocortisone on it and try taking some over the counter allergy medication like benadryl or zyrtec or the equivalent you can find in a pharmacy. Are you taking antibiotics now? (because you could develop an allergy at any time).

If you ever had chicken pox then shingles is a possibility. If it is shingles (photo here, they can give you an anti-viral to lessen the symptoms, so you would want to try to get to a doctor.

You want to keep a close eye on it, because if it gets significantly worse, painful, swollen, a lot redder or feels hot, then you will want to get to the doctor asap, because you don't want to mess with staph and cellulitis. Treatment is antibiotics, so if you are actually on antibiotics now, I am thinking that you have some kind of allergy or shingles.
posted by gudrun at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2011


The fact that you say it feels more like burning does make me think of shingles, although I don't see any blisters there. The antiviral treatment is most effective within 72 hours of rash onset, just FYI. Aside from that, I think the cortisone cream is probably all you can do, except other symptomatic measures like Benadryl, Tylenol/ibuprofen or putting ice on it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:23 PM on December 31, 2011


That looks like shingles to me. :( Just how itchy are you?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:41 PM on December 31, 2011


It's on one side, burns rather than itches...and that pic looks exactly like my shingles. It could still be hives, but if you also have any body aches, I'm really betting on shingles.

Aveeno makes the best cream for this, by far. They also have oatmeal stuff you can put in your tub and soak in, but I found the cream was the way to go for me.

Sorry about this--if it's shingles it will be an active annoyance for a while before it blisters, scabs, and heals. Takes weeks if you go cold turkey and don't get meds. I've heard the meds shorten the timespan and lessen the discomfort, though.
posted by misha at 12:43 PM on December 31, 2011


Damn, I have had chickenpox. Some fiddling with a mirror has shown what might be blisters. :(

Itchy is definitely not the right word. I used itchy because it's a constant pain that is driving me nuts in the way a bug bite would, but unlike a bite or peeling sunburn I don't have any desire to scratch it (and not just cause it feels gross). I have had a (slight) fever, headaches and body aches, which I attributed to my period.

Thanks guys! I will get to the doc as soon as I can.
posted by ke rose ne at 12:56 PM on December 31, 2011


New pic, more bumpiness
posted by ke rose ne at 1:05 PM on December 31, 2011


By the bye, if the country you're in doesn't use the chickenpox vaccine, then you really might want to consider staying away from people, especially women who might be pregnant, in case you have what is called disseminated herpes zoster (shingles). Here's the CDC's take on transmission precautions.

A person with shingles can transmit chicken pox if someone isn't immune, either by direct contact with the rash or even through the air. When I had shingles, I infected one of my students, who hadn't had the full chicken pox vaccination series. I wasn't rubbing my belly on her head or anything, so I assume that it was airborne.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:03 PM on December 31, 2011


OK, thanks to the wonders of countries that do not regulate drugs quite so strictly, I got a pharmacist to look at it, confirm shingles, and give me Valtrex and Lisovyr without seeing a doctor. Yay!

And thanks for the heads up about transmission, Stewriffic.
posted by ke rose ne at 2:21 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Glad you got confirmation and meds! (And I have to say I have felt a particular sense of ownership in this, which I'm considering my first internet diagnosis. Heh.)

May the rash clear quickly and may you not get post-herpatic neuralgia.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:38 PM on December 31, 2011


I hope it clears up quickly, shingles is horrible! With regard to transmission, I was told by a doctor when I had shingles that it wasn't airborne, and could only transmit from people touching the rash, or from me touching the rash and then touching other stuff with my hands...
posted by SoftRain at 5:24 PM on December 31, 2011


No diving or snorkeling, I was only in the water for a few minutes 'cause I have a newish tattoo on my upper back (there has also been no sun exposure for the same reason).

Congrats on getting treatment for shingles in place to fast! I hope you get relief very soon. On the off chance this does not progress as you would expect shingles to (and I'm sure it will), recent tats are the 2nd most likely pathway for staph (after coral abrasion) in the ocean. I'm sure you've got this in hand but just keep that in mind.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:25 PM on December 31, 2011


Can you bandage yourself up? When I got shingles I had to be in contact with little kids constantly and even though my case was right where yours was I decided to wrap gauze around the area (plus anti-itch cream) to prevent any accidental nudgings by curious fingers (yaaaaay kindergarteners!)
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:43 PM on December 31, 2011


Most effective anti-itch I've ever found is good old calamine lotion. It won't cure your shingles, but it makes almost any itch more bearable.

I went through a whole bottle of the stuff in the week after an incident (don't ask) that left me with bites from these bastards over about 95% of my skin. Saved my sanity.
posted by flabdablet at 5:35 AM on January 1, 2012


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