A caller had been suffering an itchy rash for a week. Three companions were also affected. That sounded good. When more than one person has a medical problem, it’s the same problem and not serious.

In the room, all four gathered to show me their skin which revealed the scattered, small pink pustules left by ectoparasites. I use that term to be accurate because not every bug that bites is an “insect.” Spiders, ticks, mites, scorpions, and centipedes aren’t.

Bedbugs (an insect) have become fashionable, but these travelers had been moving frequently from place to place. Where hygiene is reasonable, lice (an insect) limit themselves to hairy areas; I didn’t see any. My diagnosis was scabies, a mite (not an insect) that burrows under the skin. Scabies is hard to catch from clothes or bedding; mostly it requires rubbing against someone else with scabies, and it looked like these young people did a lot of that.

Mike Oppenheim

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