How Not To Spend Your Time: Pt 2

Last Thursday, I just sucked it up and went to the doctor. I didn’t have high hopes – after the failed mono test of the previous Saturday it seemed anything was possible. Except, like, the opposite of that.

So I hauled over to Eastie, parked a half-mile from the health center, and enjoyed the smell of early-morning secondhand smoke during my stroll down Porter St. It was $170 to get in, with a Nurse Practitioner, no less, so I intended to make the most of things. I read a pleasant book in the waiting room after checking in with a woman who looked like a young Salma Hayek (if Salma Hayek had an 18-inch waist and a 36-inch bust), and, as usual, I was weighed facing toward the irons on the scale. I kind of wish they would ask you first.

My nurse was a hip young man with shoes I adored and glasses I couldn’t help but covet.

“I hate rashes,” he confessed, with a sigh, after I showed him my arms.

“So do I,” I said, scratching absently at my lower back.

Together we spent considerable time looking through a large medical book containing every skin disease known to mankind. There were suppurated lesions, cracked and bleeding flesh, swollen fingers and languishing toes. Eventually we settled on Pityriasis rosea, a mild but mysterious affliction that lasts about a month, has no known cause, and, thus, no known treatment.

“I could prescribe you some steroid cream,” he offered, “but you couldn’t, you know -”

“- put it ALL OVER YOUR BODY.” we finished in unison, as I turned my attention to a particular itchy patch on my upper thigh. “OK, well, I also wanted to ask about getting Chantix – that ‘stop smoking’ pill, or whatever.”

He turned back to his monitor and tabbed over to my medication profile. “You know,” he said, rather sadly, “I really wouldn’t feel comfortable prescribing that for you until you talk to your other treaters. Chantix has some pretty serious side effects.” A valid point, since the newly-introduced Seroquel is giving me such vivid dreams that I occasionally wake up and smell my subconscious burning.

I liked this nurse. He treated me very nicely. I liked his rash book, I liked his sweater, I liked his wedding ring. I wanted to have him over for kebabs. He suggested that I come back in a week to check in, and then asked me, as an afterthought, what kind of insurance I had.

“It’s the shitty kind.” I laughed, and I told him all about the crazy deductible and the problems getting my scripts, and and the huge bill I now owe my therapist. His brown eyes turned sad behind those incredible black-rimmed glasses, although he laughed along with me. I mean, I felt bad for the guy. He clearly wanted to help me, but was absolutely unable to. Like, in any way at all.

At least I’m pretty sure now that I don’t have Scabies. That’s a good thing.

4 responses to “How Not To Spend Your Time: Pt 2”

  1. I got pityriasis rosea in high school and wanted to suggest it before to you but could not remember wtf it was called! Anyway, it was a horribly stressful time in my life, so i swear that has something to do with it… Anyway, i hope it goes away soon. 😦


  2. My husband has pityriasis rosea, too and it’s a pain in the neck. There’s a school of thought that it’s linked to the herpes virus and some people respond well to the herpes meds (Valtrex, etc.). I sometimes get fever blisters on my lip (which is also herpes) and so I have a stash of Acyclovir handy at all times (also, my refill is something like 65 cents and I have my dentist call it in for me, so I don’t even have to spend money on a doctor’s appt) and he tried that and it mildly helped. He gets flare-ups down his back and across his shoulders and he’s found that the best thing is to limit stress (ha!) and keep cool. When his temperature goes up or he gets too sweaty, it causes patches on his back. When it does flare up and gets too itchy, the best thing is Vagisil. I know, seems weird, but it has a high concentration of anti-itch and anti-burn medications (lidocaine and aloe, I think?) – better than neosporin. During the summer is when he gets most of his “flare ups” and so he tries to keep his back cool and dry and if he gets sweaty, he showers immediately. Ice packs help a lot, too, for both keeping it cool and cooling the burn/itch.

    I’ve got eczema problems myself, so I know how uncomfortable some of these things can be. A lot of these types of conditions (including herpes) are connected to nerves, which means that stress and illness can cause them and when you get them, they’re linked directly to your nerves, so they’re extra sensitive. All of it is a giant clusterF. One thing that helps my skin a LOT is UV rays. I’ll sometimes go to a tanning bed, just to get an extra dose (I know, bad! bad!) and it really helps me.

    Basically: you should set aside your next doctor’s fee and book yourself a weekend getaway to somewhere warm and sunny. 🙂

    Hang in there!


  3. I’m totally late to this game.. lol I had pityriasis once. It’s completely viral and since it resolves itself on its own, most healthcare professionals don’t worry about it. It can pop up later in life, but under incredibly stressful circumstances, again, like any virus. Any virus (or infection for that matter) is linked to your immune system and most infections are opportunistic, so they might pop up again. It’s incredibly rare to have cases of pityriasis more than once, it’s kind of like getting mono twice. Your immune system is smart enough to know to fight it off.

    Did you get the “mother patch” they talk about? It looks like ringworm. Also, it usually is centrally located on your trunk. Not that it wouldn’t spread, but virology begs to differ.

    I got mine from a tanning bed (gross, I know), and since I had been tanning regularly, all the spots that showed up left me looking like a backwards leopard for the summer.

    Usually if you’re getting recurrent rashes, its fungal (usually if you’re sweaty all the time), or eczema (immunodeficiency), or heat rash (self explanatory on that one). If you go to bikram make sure you change out of your clothes right away, considering a bikram room is essentially an incubator for all sorts of fun infections.

    Also, I would recommend against taking any antiviral drugs… Valtrex and acyclovir are specific for the herpes virus and will not be beneficial against pityriasis.

    In short: try a friendly pharmacist for some free advice next time (and if the first one doesn’t ask you a single question about it, you should try another pharmacist who does ask some questions…that’s what we’re paid to do!)

    PS can you tell how much I love infectious diseases?!


  4. I got pityriasis rosea when I first moved to Boston and I was so freaked out and at first the student clinic didn’t know what it was. But then the nurse practitioner came in and she identified it on the spot and even complimented me on how it was a “perfect specimen” of it.

    And then she told me it was harmless (well, pretty much; since they don’t really know anything about it) and it should clear up in a month or two.

    And apparently it’s one of the most common rashes out there.

    I was so happy I didn’t have some terrible STI or equiv. that I even didn’t mind when the NP asked if she could show some other people my rash to help them diagnose future cases. (Note: It was all over my stomach and 99% of the time the thought of showing my torso to the world engenders feelings of extreme not-funness.)

    Oh and weird that they called it the “Mother patch” for other people. The NP I saw called it a “herald.”

    But ya seriously, I looked somewhat leopardish for a month and a half.

    I’m glad the OP got it diagnosed.


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