How to Treat Disturbing Tropical Rashes and Skin Parasites

Sometimes exotic travel can get under your skin...or in your head! Dermatologist Dr. Davindra Singh takes us through the tropical diseases we can catch while jet-setting. 


Tropical skin rash

The technical term is Cutaneous Larva Migrans. It's a worm that originates from the feces of cats and dogs and burrows into your skin. It lives in the top layer of your skin and causes a "creeping eruption" that's intensely itchy. If you want to avoid this you should never let your bare skin touch the sand of a beach where you see dogs and cats roaming! CLM can happen on the bottoms of feet, on the butt, on your breasts...anywhere your bare skin touches contaminated sand.

Treatment: There is a pill that can be prescribed and it will clear up the issue.

Mexican Beer Disease

Mexican Beer Disease: Blotchy Hands

The technical term is Phytophotodermatitis. This happens when lime juice on the skin is exposed to the sun. It can turn hands and arms splotchy red or brown, and the colour can last for weeks or months. Think about all the bartenders and vacationers mixing mojitos at beach bars without washing their hands afterward. And some people are more susceptible to this than others. We're seeing this on different parts of the body more and more, especially since people often add lime to bottles of beer...if that beer then splatters onto an area of the skin exposed to intense sun it can flare up.

Treatment: There is no solution. If it's a blistering eruption you treat the wound, otherwise you have to be patient.

Blistering Bites

blistering bites

The technical term is Bullous Bites. This condition isn't just a tropical thing but it's more common with vacationers. It's when your skin reacts extremely to a bug bite. People can react this way to bed bugs and sandflies when an itchy bit morphs into severe blisters. For some people the bite is just red and itchy, but for others it's severe blisters. This is why it's important to be careful in hotel rooms and on beaches. The best way to avoid this reaction is to follow all the common sense rules: wear lightweight full-length clothing, use bug spray in foreign places, and book hotel stays at reputable places.

Treatment: They will resolve with time. Talk to your physician about a strong steroid ointment.


botfly on head

The botfly is a small, hairy fly found in South America. It lays eggs on mosquitoes and other insects. When a person is bitten by an insect, the eggs then transfer to the human and hatch into maggots! These botfly maggots burrow into the skin and leave a hole for breathing. They feed off the host's blood and tissue and grow bigger and bigger under the skin. This can cause intense pain and people may even feel them wriggling around as it feeds.

Treatment: Some people will cover the hole with petroleum jelly or bacon grease to suffocate the botfly maggot. This forces them to crawl out of the hole in your skin. But since the pain is intense, some people have them extracted by a doctor.

Chris Hyndman's reaction to a botfly extraction.
Chris' reaction to the botfly extraction.