Mary, you've described a papulocrustous eruption of the skin called miliary dermatitis. Here's my synopsis of that skin disorder for you:
Miliary dermatitis is seen mainly secondary to allergic skin disease. In rarer cases we'll find the demodectic mange mite which can be found upon examining skin scrapings microscopically.
Whenever the area between the edge of our cat's rib cage to the tail is involved, a flea saliva allergy is most commonly found. Even if you can't find any fleas, it's best that you apply an effective over the counter flea spot-on such as Advantage/Advocate or a fipronil-containing product such as Frontline or one of the newer flea spot-ons available from his vet. In severe cases we can either inject or orally administer a prescription antihistaminic corticosteroid such as prednisolone which often works wonders in these cats. Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) aren't reliably effective against allergic skin disease but you might see how a dose of 2mg of an over the counter chlorpheniramine once or twice daily affects him. Please note that cats can be such effective groomers as to remove all evidence of fleas. It's important to still apply the flea spot-ons. If Revolution isn't doing the trick, try another product and make sure to treat your premises with an area treatment spray that contains an insect growth regulator (IGR) such as methoprene. IGRs don't allow flea eggs or larvae to develop into adult fleas and so break up the life cycle of the flea.
Less commonly but still important, his skin can result from a food intolerance or atopy (allergies to environmental allergens such as pollens, molds, dust and dust mites, e.g.) Food intolerance/allergy is addressed with prescription hypoallergenic diets. These special foods contain just one novel (rabbit, duck, e.g.) animal protein or proteins that have been chemically altered (hydrolyzed) to the point that his immune system doesn't "see" anything to be allergic to. The over the counter hypoallergenic foods too often contain proteins not listed on the label - soy is a common one - and these proteins would confound our evaluation of the efficacy of the hypoallergenic diet. The prescription foods are available from his vet. There are many novel protein foods and a prototypical hydrolyzed protein food is Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d ultra (my preference). A positive response is usually seen within a few weeks if we’ve eliminated the offending food allergen.
Atopy is usually initially addressed by the same prednisolone I mentioned above and used to address a flea saliva allergy. Prednisolone can be used as a test when differentiating a flea saliva allergy or atopy from a food intolerance. Both a flea saliva allergy and atopy are usually quite responsive to prednisolone. Not so a food intolerance. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.