Have you been itching recently? has it been more intense and seem to involve more body areas? Is it worse at night or after a very hot bath? Have you noticed skin bumps that look link insect bites or a pimple rash? Then there’s a possibility you might have caught scabies – the human itch mite.
Scabies is a skin condition that is caused by the female mite Sarcoptes Scabiei. The mites burrow into the skin to live and deposit eggs.
HOW IT SPREADS
The scabies mite usually is spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies. Scabies can spread rapidly under crowded conditions where close body and skin contact is frequent such as in nursing homes, school hostels, day cares and prisons are often sites of scabies outbreaks.
COMMON SITES OF INFESTATION
- webbing between the fingers
- under the breast in females
- shoulder blades
In infants it could appear on on the scalp, face, neck, palm and soles.
Symptoms may take as long as 4-6 weeks to begin in a person that has never had scabies before. It is important to remember that an infested person can spread scabies during this time, even if he/she does not have symptoms yet.In a person who has had scabies before, symptoms usually appear much sooner (1-4 days) after exposure.
- ITCH – intense itching especially at night, made worse by warmth.
- RASH – itchy pimple like rash which can include tiny blisters and scales. Scratching the rash can cause skin sores; sometimes these sores become infected by bacteria.
- BURROWS – Tiny burrows are sometimes seen on the skin; these are caused by the female scabies mite tunneling just beneath the surface of the skin. These burrows appear as tiny raised and crooked grayish-white or skin-colored lines on the skin surface. Usually linear or s-shaped in nature, these burrows are interspersed with the rash. These burrows may be difficult to find because mites are often few in number (only 10-15 mites per person). Those suffering from crusted scabies may not experience too intense an itch, or in some cases, any at all. Crusted scabies usually develops in people with weakened immune systems. This includes people with HIV or AIDS, people who use steroids or other treatments such as certain medications for rheumatoid arthritis, or people who are undergoing chemotherapy.
SORES – In some cases, the scabies rash could be puss-filled sores which are raised, bumpy and very prominent on the skin.
Treatment for scabies usually involves getting rid of the infestation with prescription ointments, creams, and lotions that can be applied to the skin directly.
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD), some common medicines used to treat scabies include:
- 5 percent permethrin cream
- 25 percent benzyl benzoate lotion
- 10 percent sulfur ointment
- 10 percent crotamiton cream
- 1 percent lindane lotion
More aggressive treatment may be needed for severe or widespread scabies. An oral tablet called ivermectin can be given to people who:
- don’t see an improvement in symptoms after initial treatment
- have crusted scabies
- have scabies that covers most of the body
During the first week of treatment, it may seem as if the symptoms are getting worse. However, after the first week, you’ll notice less itching and you should be completely healed by the fourth week of treatment. Skin that hasn’t healed within a month may still be infested with scabies mites.
HOW TO GET RID OF SCABIES
Scabies mites can live for 48 to 72 hours away from the human body, so you need to take certain precautions to prevent re-infestation. Make sure to wash all your clothing, bedding, towels, pillows, etc, used within 3-4 days of the in hot water.
These items should then be dried in the dryer on very high heat for at least 10 to 30 minutes or sun dried.
Bleach and hot water can also be used to clean other surfaces that may contain scabies mites.
You can also tie exposed clothing in an airtight bag for 7 days to allow any remaining mite to die.
Contact your doctor right away if you think you might have scabies.