Background Herpetic whitlow is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 or 2, and occurs in the pediatric population primarily on the fingers and toes due to autoinoculation from oral secretions. Because of this cited prevalence, other locations of herpetic whitlow may go unrecognized. Case presentation We present an atypical presentation of palmar herpetic whitlow with delayed recognition and associated viral lymphangitis. The patient presented as a transfer from an outside hospital with a progressive, three-day history of a suspected left hand abscess preceded by left hand pain and itching. She was initially evaluated by Orthopedic Surgery, who described an erythematous, edematous, tender, left palmar abscess with associated erythematous streaking up her forearm. The lesion was surgically managed with an incision and drainage. Wound cultures were obtained during which "minimal drainage" was noted. After admission to the General Pediatrics Hospital service, the lesion was noted to appear vesicular and subsequently obtained PCR samples were positive for HSV type 1, confirming her diagnosis of herpetic whitlow. Although she remained afebrile with negative wound cultures throughout her hospitalization, a secondary bacterial infection could not be conclusively excluded due to the accompanying lymphangitis. Thus, she was discharged with oral antibiotics and anticipatory guidance of potential recurrence of palmar lesions. Conclusions Herpetic whitlow should be included in the differential diagnosis of palmar lesions that appear vesicular or abscess-like to ensure appropriate treatment. Additionally, these palmar lesions may present with associated lymphangitis without evidence of bacterial infection. Keywords: HSV, Herpetic whitlow, Lymphangitis, Palmar lesion, Vesicular lesion
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