Scabies, also known as the ‘seven-year itch’, is a contagious skin infestation caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite – a tiny, spider-like parasite that burrows into the skin, causing itching and rash. You can treat scabies with non-prescription drugs, but to get rid of the mite also requires a thorough cleaning of clothes and textiles.
Appotek can help diagnose your symptoms and advise you on treatment, as well as providing individual doctor consultations and prescriptions if needed.
Scabies symptoms are not always clear, but most experience severe itching – especially in the evening and night. Small red bumps, blisters or eczema-like rashes on the skin are also common. In severe cases, you can also get scales and scabs. If you itch, you may get small wounds.
Scabies can cause rashes and itching anywhere on the body, but the parasites prefer to sit on the wrists or between fingers and toes.
Bear in mind that itching and rashes are not exclusively symptoms for scabies. They can also indicate eczema, hives, allergies, etc.
The Sarcoptes scabiei mite is found throughout the world. It is a parasite so tiny that you can rarely see it with the naked eye.
Most infections occur through close body contact, with the mite burrowing into the skin and laying eggs in the outer skin layer.
Once you are infected, it usually takes 3-6 weeks before itching begins (if it itches at all) but you are nevertheless the carrier of the infection throughout that period.
If you have had scabies before, itching may start as soon as a few days after infection.
If you are otherwise healthy, you will usually get less than ten scabies in the skin, and milder symptoms. But older people and those with a reduced immune system can be attacked by significantly more parasites, with severer symptoms.
Prevention and Protection
In order to prevent the spread and the return of infection, it is important to wash bed linen, towels and clothing at 60 degrees, as the mites can survive in lower temperatures.
To reduce the risk of infection:
- Wash your hands carefully and often with liquid soap; use paper towel when drying
- Wash linens, blankets, towels and other textiles
- Wash clothes, hats and toys for example
- Vacuum thoroughly, including beds and furniture
- Ventilate any items that are difficult to wash (e.g. shoes, gloves, jackets) for 2-3 days.
If you are unable to detect the mites at home, health care professionals may need to analyze the mites under a microscope or magnifying glass. It is important to have a correct diagnosis, to rule out other causes for the itching. If scabies is confirmed, there are a number of effective medications for treatment. Any treatment however should involve the entire household, as well as anyone who has had recent, prolonged contact with the infested individual.
Options to control itchiness include antihistamines and prescription anti-inflammatory agents. Permethrin (insecticide) is the most effective treatment for scabies. It is applied from the neck down, usually before bedtime, and left on for about eight to 14 hours, then washed off in the morning. One application is normally sufficient, as permethrin kills eggs and hatchlings as well as adult mites, though many physicians recommend a second application three to seven days later as a precaution. Other treatments include lindane, benzyl benzoate, crotamiton, malathion, and sulfur preparations.
It is important that people in the same household, or any who have had close body contact, be treated at the same time so the scabies does not come back, even if only one person has symptoms. Otherwise, the infection can be spread by someone who is unknowingly infected but hasn’t shown symptoms yet. Itching can sometimes persist for several weeks after treatment. Since the dead mites and their eggs may remain in the skin, you may have an allergic reaction that leads to itching. You may also get skin irritation from the drug treatment. Hydrocortisone ointment or antihistamine tablets can relieve this discomfort. In either case, the itching will disappear once the outer layer of skin has been replaced.
When to consult a doctor
If you suspect that you or anyone else at home has scabies, you should seek medical attention to confirm the diagnosis.
If your complaints persist after 3-4 weeks or if itching starts again, you should also seek medical attention.
How APPOTEK can help
You can contact us at APPOTEK for help with scabies.
A nurse or a physician can make an individual assessment based on your symptoms. You will then be prescribed treatment or referred for further treatment. In cases of scabies, a physical examination is required for full proof diagnosis. Also if your child has a suspected infestation, he or she will need to see a doctor.