With the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere we find that a large number of our clients are traveling to tropical destinations to get away from the cold. We would like to point out three skin conditions that can occur with even short trips to the tropics, especially if you are going to vacation on the beach.
Sunburn and the need for sunscreen is an obvious concern, but are you aware of phytophotodermatitis? This is more commonly known as “Margarita dermatitis” because it occurs most frequently when one spills lime juice on their skin and then is exposed to the sun. There is a chemical in lime juice that sensitizes the skin to the sun. This can lead to severe sunburn, often occurring within minutes, with blistering and even scarring that can last a lifetime. To prevent this, try not to spill your Margarita (or lime juice) on your skin. And if you do, wash it off promptly. Even if you are pregnant and not drinking alcohol, you need to be careful with limes and sunlight.
Cutaneous larva migrans
Second on our list is a condition known as cutaneous larva migrans. This is a rash that occurs when the larva of a canine hookworm penetrates the skin and leaves a worm-like trail of inflammation as it crawls about under the skin. The rash can be quite unsightly and is apt to itch severely. These larvae live in the sand where dogs (or cats) are allowed to roam and occur most commonly on the feet, buttocks or hands—areas that most come into contact with the sand. Prevention consists of wearing shoes while walking on the beach and always putting a barrier, like a towel, between your body and the sand. Fortunately, the condition is self-limited and the rash and itching will resolve spontaneously after 4-5 weeks when the larva dies. Topical application of albendazole ointment may hasten the process and you may need to take something for the itching.
The third skin problem we will mention is tungiasis. In this case, tiny sand fleas actually burrow into the skin and set up an inflammatory reaction. Sand fleas are the smallest of fleas, measuring less than one millimeter and therefore are very hard to see. The flea bites the skin and then burrows into the skin to reach the underlying capillaries. The “rash”, once this occurs, consists of one or more little white circles with a black dot in the center. Prevention consists of wearing shoes when walking on the beach and washing hands thoroughly if playing in the sand. If left alone, the flea will eventually die in one to two weeks and be sloughed off as the skin is replaced by new cells. A number of treatment methods have been recommended over the years, including digging the flea out with tweezers, covering the lesion with Vaseline, or freezing the lesion (cryotherapy.) Topical anti-parasitic medications are also available to hasten the healing process. This advice is not meant to deter you from traveling to a warm climate. These conditions are easily prevented if you are aware of them and use the precautions mentioned above.
Safe travels…until next time!
Want to learn more about how different culture can change how your pregnancy can be treated? Read our ‘Maternity and Culture’ blog post below: