Emergency department presentation of 'delusional parasitosis by proxy'. Delusional parent, injured child.


UNLV School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, United States of America. Electronic address: [Email]


We report a case of 'delusional parasitosis by proxy'. A sixyear old child was brought to the emergency department by a mother with concerns that her son had a skin and scalp infestation. Despite the absence of any clinical findings being found on exam, the mother remained disproportionately concerned. Follow up care was recommended with the child's primary care. The mother returned to the ED with her child three weeks later with concerns that her son had an inflamed scalp and eyes. The mother remained insistent that the child was infested with bugs and she had sought care at two other locations where the child was prescribed permethrin on both visits. She had been applying the medication repeatedly. On exam the boy's scalp had been shaved and was erythematous and irritated; his eyebrows and eyelashes had also been shaved off and likely contributed to an irritant conjunctivitis from repeated applications of topical permethrin lotion. No evidence of infestation was identified. We recruited the assistance of the maternal grandparents, child protective services and primary care pediatrics and the child was removed from the mother's custody and placed into the custody of the grandparents. Six weeks later with basic skin care and erythromycin ophthalmic ointment for the eyes, the child's hair, eyebrows and eyelashes grew had grown in, and the scalp irritation had resolved. The mother had sought and received psychiatric care and was improving.

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