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Jeruba's avatar

What kind of medical professional should I see for this apparent infection?

Asked by Jeruba (55596points) November 12th, 2022

There’s a spot on my arm that showed up two days ago. It was there when I got up and got my attention as mild but noticeable pain with slight pressure. I was not aware of how I acquired it.

There’s a firm lump about ½ inch in diameter, not too thick, and a solid red spot like a scab on top, sort of like a little volcano. The area around it is pink and getting pinker. It’s tender to the touch, more sensitive now than it was at first.

I’ve never had anything like this before but wonder if it’s some sort of bug bite.

I can’t see going to a hospital or even a doctor for this, but I don’t know who to see. Doesn’t seem like a matter for urgent care, but it’s also a little scary because it appears to be infected.

Whether we like it or not, we have to venture some kind of self-diagnosis before we can look for help.

So—my question is not “What is this tender pink lump?” It’s “What kind of treatment should I look for, “What kind of healthcare person should I consult?”

I’ve already tried my health insurance’s nurse hotline and couldn’t break through the busy signal. The online chat just linked me to articles and said to call the nurse hotline. It’s Saturday, so my doctor’s clinic is closed.

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17 Answers

janbb's avatar

I would start with a dermatologist or your PCP since it’s on the skin. I realize that means waiting til Monday but it sounds like that’s what you have to do. If it’s really worrying you, go to an urgent care clinic.

chyna's avatar

I agree about seeing a dermatologist, but if it’s anything like around here, it takes a while to get in. I would start with a dermatologist on Monday, and if you can’t get in, call your PCP.

SnipSnip's avatar

I would call the Dermatologist and ask if they are the right target. Also, look online for pictures of black widow and brown recluse spider bites.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m not familiar with that description, but what I think I would do, assuming I somewhat understand, is I would use a ballpoint pen to trace around the circle so I know if it grows and how fast. If it doesn’t grow then try to get an appointment at dermatology or your GP Monday or Tuesday. Or, maybe you can text a photo to your dermatologist since it’s the weekend.

Is it round? Or, is it jagged and messy? Jagged and messy might be shingles.

If it is still growing now (and you’ve had it now two days) I would try to go to urgent care tomorrow.

If it becomes VERY painful like you can’t move your arm, or if red (or might appear pinkish) streaks appear going from the area up your arm I would consider that an emergency and go at minimum to urgent care if not the ER.

Is it warm to the touch?

It sounds like a bite of some sort. Were you in an attic or dark area disturbing things that usually sit undisturbed?

Could be many things, maybe you can upload a photo?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I also suggest doing a Google search for black widow and brown recluse bites. If it’s close, go quickly to urgent care.

If not, I’m sorry you’ll have to wait until Monday to see your doctor.

JLeslie's avatar

Forgot to say brown recluse are usually in dark undisturbed places.

That bite needs aggressive antibiotics. I agree with HJ I would go to urgent care for that.

Caravanfan's avatar

Any primary care doctor worth their salt can deal with this.

JLeslie's avatar

Clarify: If it is a brown recluse bite it needs antibiotics. We still don’t know what it is.

gondwanalon's avatar

A medical doctor at an urgent care or prompt care clinic could likely identify and treat such a problem.

kritiper's avatar

@gondwanalon Said it best, but do see someone immediately. It could be serious!

Jeruba's avatar

Update: Eventually I managed to get through on the nurse hotline, and the nurse told me to go to urgent care. The doctor there said it didn’t look so much like an insect bite, but rather like a small wound that I didn’t notice until it got infected. She opened it up, drained it, packed it, and gave me a prescription for doxycycline.

Your responses helped reinforce my instinctive sense that this wasn’t one to ignore. So thanks very much, everyone, for chiming in.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My instinct would have been to sterilize a. pin and stab it and POP it! Then spend the next few days cleaning it with soap and water.

Jeruba's avatar

@Dutchess_III, that’s basically the remedy. Plus the doxycycline, of course. However, I’d say a needle rather than a pin. I pierced my ears (and my friends’, and my husband’s) with a fine, sharp needle.

Caravanfan's avatar

@Jeruba Yep. From the description that’s exactly what I would have done. I might have used a cephalosprorin for an antibotics but doxy is fine.

Jeruba's avatar

@Caravanfan, thanks for seconding that view. I wasn’t doubting the ability of any competent physician to treat my little wound. Rather, I was wondering if it was enough to bother a doctor with or if I should just, you know, lick it well by myself.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ve been bitten by brown recluse twice. I just kept the bites clean with soap and water and they healed up just fine. The first one was on my foot when I put my sock on. I pulled the sock off in a hurry and the spider fell out so I saw it.
I didn’t see the spider the second time but I recognized that rabid itching!

RocketGuy's avatar

@Jeruba – Sounds exactly like what happened to my dog. Looked red and ugly. The vet lanced the bubble and prescribed antibiotics. Worked great.

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