Scabies

What is scabies?

  • Scabies is an infestation of the skin with the microscopic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The mite penetrates through the skin and digs burrows where female mites lay eggs. After 3 - 4 days newly hatched larvae exit the burrow and make their own tunnels through the skin.
  • Scabies is present worldwide and it spreads rapidly where there is frequent skin-to-skin contact between people, such as in hospitals, institutions, child-care facilities, and nursing homes.

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What are the symptoms of scabies infestation?

  • The most common symptom is intense itching, particularly at night, which may affect all of the body.
  • Small vesicles, burrows, or rash of the skin may be seen in areas such as: between the fingers, on the hands, the skin folds on the wrist, elbow, armpits, knee, thigh, around the groin, the breast, shoulder blades.
  • In young children mites can affect the head, neck, palms and soles.
  • The rash is an allergic reaction of the body to the mite, its eggs, and waste products deposited under the skin, and may not indicate the site of the skin where the mite has burrowed.
  • Scratching can cause sores on the body. These sores can become infected with bacteria.
  • In people with compromised immune system, a more severe and highly contagious form of Scabies may develop with large scales on the skin called Norwegian or crusted scabies.

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What are the Incubation Periods?

  • 2 - 6 weeks before symptoms for those infested for the first time.
  • 1 - 4 days before symptoms for those who have been previously infested

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How is scabies transmitted?

  • Mites are passed from person to person by direct skin-to-skin contact with a person already infested with scabies. A prolonged or frequent direct skin-to-skin contact and sharing clothing, towels, or linen increases the risk of transmission. A quick handshake or hug will not usually spread infestation. Infestation is easily spread to sexual partners and household members.
  • Pets do not spread human scabies.

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How long will mites live?

  • Outside from the human skin, mites usually do not survive more than 48 - 72 hours.

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Can scabies be treated?

  • Several creams or lotions are available to treat scabies at the Doctor’s recommendation. Always follow the directions provided by your physician or pharmacist. Crusted scabies may need more individualized treatment.
  • Apply the medication to the whole clean body and wash off after 8 or 12 hours contact time.
  • A prescribed scabicidal cream or lotion is applied to the whole clean body from neck to soles of feet, particularly to axilla, groin, wrists, web spaces of fingers and toes, including under fingernails/toenails, buttocks. Avoid eyes, head and mouth. Put on clean clothes, and sleep in clean bedding.
  • Leave lotion on for the prescribed time. Reapply to any areas that have been washed during treatment e.g. after hand washing. Thoroughly wash off by shower or bath in the morning. After washing off the cream or lotion, put on clean clothes.
  • Household members and persons with direct contact within the previous 6 weeks of a person with scabies should receive prophylactic treatment at the same time.
  • It is beneficial for those people to seek guidance from their family Physician.
  • Children and pregnant women must seek medical advice and supervision for treatment.
  • Children and pregnant women must seek medical advice and supervision for treatment.

  • All clothes, bedding, and towels used by the infested person during the 3 days before treatment should be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer cycle for at least 20 minutes. Dry clean items that are non-washable, as indicated on the item’s tag. Potentially contaminated large items such as furniture or mattresses should be cleaned and disinfected.

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Should I be aware of anything after the treatment?

  • Itching may continue for 2 - 4 weeks, after a successful treatment and it is not an indication of new infestation.
  • Your health care provider may prescribe additional medication to relieve itching or dry skin condition.

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References

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