Friday Night

Daughter comes into room at approximately 2 a.m.

“Mommy, my mosquito bite really itches.”

In the darkness, I slather anti-itch cream between her toes. I can’t really see but figure I’ve doused the bite and she’ll go back to sleep.

Ten minutes later, “Mommy, it’s still itching.”

I turn on the light and put more cream between her toes. We’ve been eating dinner on the back deck a lot. Boy, she sure got munched.

Half an hour later. “Mommy, it’s itching!”

I give her a Benadryl and she finally sleeps.


Saturday morning, she sleeps in and comes down late in her PJs. I don’t notice whether she’s still scratching her bites and have forgotten about our middle of the night itch fest. Husband takes the kids while I go for a hike and run errands.

At 1 pm we meet in town to go to the beach together. I climb into the minivan, take one look at Daughter, and my eyes bug out. Her feet, legs, hands and arms are covered with raised, red welts. She’s scratching them terribly.

“She has Poison Ivy!” I exclaim, wondering if we should still head to the beach.

Husband has just picked up fourteen year old Niece, who’s staying with us for a week, and we’re all packed up and ready to go. So we circle the beach three times while hemming and hawing about what to do. I dial the pediatrician on call for the weekend but am cut off (poor cell service at the shore).

Finally, I declare, “It’s pretty cool out. Let’s get her in the salt water and see if that helps. If she’s uncomfortable, we can always leave.”

Fortunately, there isn’t a trace of humidity and the beach is cool so Daughter is actually much more comfortable once she gets wet and starts playing in the sand.

I settle myself in a beach chair with my Blackberry and start Googling “itchy rashes in children.” In a flash, I’m flipping through full color photographs of big splotchy rashes, small bumps, blisters, clusters, you name it. One photo shows a child’s foot with bumps all over it. It’s labeled as…. Scabies. Yuck.

The phone rings. It’s my pediatrician.

“Hi, Heather. I just noticed you called and didn’t leave a message. What’s up?” she asks.

I tell her about Daughter’s condition and the photos I’m viewing on my phone.

“It could be Scabies, we’ve definitely seen that around here. But it also sounds like Poison Ivy. If she doesn’t have a fever and is feeling well otherwise, let’s see how she does. If she’s not better by tomorrow, call me.” She recommends an oatmeal bath and Benadryl to ease the itching.

Back home after a bath, which makes Daughter scratch more, I dress here in a long sleeve shirt, pants, and socks and that helps her keep from scratching. I give her Benadryl and wait to see what she looks like the next day.


When Daughter wakes up, the rash has worsened and random bumps are moving up her hips and back. I give her another Benadryl and call the pediatrician. We agree to meet at the office at 10:30.

The minute Daughter’s clothes and socks are off, she scratches like crazy. Doctor still isn’t sure what kind of rash it is.

“It doesn’t look as weepy as Poison Ivy. It could be Poison Oak. It could also be from swimming in the Sound. Or Scabies.”

Mmmmm. I want a definitive diagnosis.

“Since it’s still spreading and she’s scratching so much, let’s put her on a steroid. We could also just treat her for Scabies in case that’s what it is.”

That involves putting a pesticide cream all over her body.

“I’d actually rather wait and know what it is.”

“Okay, the risk is just that it will clear up on the Prednisone and if it’s Scabies, it will come back and you’ll just have to treat her again.”

I truth, I’m not willing to accept that Daughter has Scabies (a tiny parasite that burrows into the skin – Yikes! Uggh! Ick!). Why would she get it and no one else? Why aren’t the rest of us scratching? If we just treat her for it, I won’t know if that’s what she really has. Or something else.

Monday and Tuesday

I spend the next two days obsessively trying to determine what type of rash Daughter has. It’s appearing symmetrically on both sides of her body. How can this be from a bug? I decide it must be something else and if Doctor doesn’t know, it’s up to me to figure it out.

Welcome to – my stint as a hyper Googling parent seeking answers to my child’s health mystery. (Husband does his best to ignore my bizarre behavior.)

I try to get an appointment with a dermatologist and wait for them to call with a cancellation. In the meantime, I spend every spare moment jumping on the computer to Google a new variation of my search theme.

Itchy rash on feet, legs, hands and arms.

Very itchy rash in child

Symmetrical rash in child

(There are about a dozen others but I won’t bore you.)

Monday afternoon I stop by a friend’s house to pick up some forms for a volunteer group and she remembers that Daughter had a fever the previous week.

“How’s she feeling?” she asks.

“Now she has a bad rash.”

“It’s Lyme Disease! I know it!” She is adamant that I have her checked for Lyme.

I return home and Google again.

Lyme Disease rash in children

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever! It’s a tick-borne disease that presents with fever and rash. Later that day, Daughter says her elbow hurts. Joint pain! (No matter that we live in New England. My brother and his family visited us from Boulder, Colorado the previous week. At, a tick can hop a ride across country to satisfy my quest for an answer.)

I call the Doctor. “Should we test her for Lyme?” Even in my obsessed state, I’m too embarrassed to suggest Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

“It’s definitely not a Lyme rash,” she says.

I Google again. The rash for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever isn’t itchy. Oh.

Later that night, I remember that Son had Shingles when he was three and his reaction was similar to what Daughter is experiencing now. A very itchy rash covered his legs and moved up to his trunk. Or was it just one leg? How could both my children have the strange occurrence of Shingles as children after receiving the Chicken Pox vaccine?

I Google: Shingles in children

The pictures on the web for Shingles don’t really look like her rash. But a list of Comments about Shingles has some postings further down that name Oxyclean as the culprit in someone else’s child’s very itch rash on her feet, legs, hands and arms.

Yawn. I’m exhausted from my mad search for her true diagnosis. I don’t think it’s Oxyclean. It might be Shingles, or Scabies, or Poison Ivy. And now it’s mostly cleared up from the Prednisone so it’s not even worth seeing the dermatologist I finally got an appointment with.

The real truth is that with the power of every medical site at my finger tips, I am hoping for some control over what ails her. Some ability to help her and not submit to the uncertainty of a doctor’s “I don’t know.”

This is the third strange rash Daughter has had since birth. If something else is going on here, I don’t trust anyone else to dig as deeply as I will to get to the bottom of it.

A week later

Today is Daughter’s last day of Prednisone.

Will the rash come back indicating it’s Scabies and we need to begin extermination procedures?

Will another strange rash appear in a few months, driving me to diagnostic madness once again? (Husband will probably move out.)

Or will the last remnants of red dots fade away and we’ll never know what it really was.


In the meantime, I’ve washed all her bedding in hot water. Just in case.

UPDATE: Daughter’s rash never came back and I never knew for sure what she had. In hindsight, I’ve chalked it up to Poison Ivy.

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