Help me diagnose my sudden strange rash.
November 4, 2012 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Suddenly developed a rash on the underside of my wrists, and it seems to be spreading. Please help me diagnose it before I visit the doctor tomorrow. More info than you want to know inside.

Sitting in my living room yesterday I suddenly noticed small itchy bumps that had appeared on the underside of my wrists. They seem to have spread up to my elbows, to the backs of my hands, and onto my legs. I feel like it gets worse every time I sit in a certain upholstered chair, and suspect that the ancient blanket I pulled from a high shelf in my closet on Friday, somehow spread mites onto the chair. I've since removed the blanket. I may get rid of the chair too but that is kind of drastic since I do not have too much other furniture. The chair was purchased new and I've had it for a while. And I don't know for sure that it's the cause.

The bumps are tiny, colorless and they itch. Benadryl seems to help.

I do not often develop rashes. There is almost no probability that this is due to poison ivy or poison oak. No new detergents, creams, shampoos, etc have been used recently, and anyway the rash seems localized to my limbs (thankfully) and is not body-wide.

I will see the doctor. But they will hardly prioritize this, and it could be days before I get an appointment. Meanwhile I'd like to do what I can to get rid of the culprit.
posted by bchaplin to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
It sounds like a classic case of scabies.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:07 PM on November 4, 2012

(Advice on treatment is in that link too)
posted by Coobeastie at 12:08 PM on November 4, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks. Kinda hoping it's not scabies. I do not see any 'tunnels'. But I guess that's still better than some other options. Too much googling of symptoms leads to insanity.
posted by bchaplin at 12:37 PM on November 4, 2012

If it's scabies, it almost certainly didn't come from a blanket that's been in storage; they can't live off of humans for very long periods of time like that.

That said, it could certainly be scabies even if you don't see obvious tunnels. Transmission through furniture isn't said to be the most common way to get it, but it does happen.

Also, if you've never had scabies or anything related before, it can take up to 6 weeks for the allergic reaction to start, so in the event it's that, it could have been from some event much earlier than what you're thinking of.

At any rate, get it checked out. If it's any kind of mite, waiting for treatment is only going to make you miserable and make the affliction more difficult to kick. That, and you don't want to inadvertently pass critters to others.

On the other hand, the symptoms of winter itch are allegedly pretty similar. Also, if Benadryl is helping, that might mean it's *not* mites.

In my experience, if it's worse at night and you're getting a small number of new bumps at a time spreading out from your existing rash, that'd make me suspect scabies.
posted by treblemaker at 12:55 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your rash sounds very like how I develop excema. I get an itchy rash with inflamed red patches but no visible "bumps" on my hands, elbows, the backs of my knees and on my feet. I've never heard of antihistamines working on excema, though. Maybe some kind of allergic contact dermatitis? Also, could the shawl have been washed in a different washing powder, if it's not been used for a while?
posted by Solomon at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have a single large rash anywhere on your body that came before the others? We're talking around 2" wide, probably on your trunk. If so, look up pityriasis rosea. It has a second phase which looks a lot like eczema.
posted by hanoixan at 2:25 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not obviously scabies - that tends to really be concentrated in the webs between your fingers. It's possible to have a more disseminated scabies but less common.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:52 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It sounds like the hives I used to get as a child anytime I came in contact with cat fur. We'd treat it by making a paste of baking soda and water and spreading it over the bumpy areas and letting it dry. It helped control the itching immensely.

I will be surprised if this turns out to be some sort of mite issue. It sounds more like a basic skin allergy reaction to me.
posted by Brody's chum at 4:36 PM on November 4, 2012

This is how each of my hive incidents started when I develop an allergy to medication. Prozac, erythromycin, etc. I got scabies in France and that started on the backs of my hands. Qwell or Cortisone. Does it really matter which?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:36 PM on November 4, 2012

Best answer: It sounds like contact dermatitis to me.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:16 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments so far. No large rash preceding it, not even red patches. Just tiny bumps that are spreading all over. I hope the doctor has an answer.
posted by bchaplin at 6:12 PM on November 4, 2012

How symmetrical is it? If the rash is located at approximately the same locations on both sides of the body, it's less likely to be a localized immune reaction (e.g., contact dermatitis) and more likely to be something like eczema.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:38 PM on November 4, 2012

I got this, and I think it was because of how I sat and my work desk for x hours each day, and how it rubbed my wrists. If that sounds familiar to you, look at your desk set up, if some clothing is rubbing against your wrists, especially as you use your mouse, and what your desk is cleaned with.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:55 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I did get to see the doctor. Yay! She has ruled out scabies, chicken pox, shingles, bedbugs, poison oak... But we aren't sure what it is. I've been prescribed a steroid cream and antihistamine.
posted by bchaplin at 8:27 AM on November 5, 2012

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