What is scabies?
Scabies is an easily spread skin disease caused by a very small species of mite.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Scabies is found worldwide among people of all groups and ages. It is spread by direct contact with infected people, and less often by sharing clothing or bedding. Sometimes whole families are affected. Outbreaks of scabies are more common in nursing homes, nursing facilities, and child care centers. The mites that cause scabies burrow into the skin and deposit their eggs, forming a burrow that looks like a pencil mark. Eggs mature in 21 days. The itchy rash is an allergic response to the mite. Scabies is spread by skin-to-skin contact with another person who has scabies. Pets and animals cannot spread human scabies.
It is also not very likely for scabies to be spread by:
- A swimming pool
- Contact with the towels, bedding, and clothing of someone who has scabies, unless the person has what is called “crusted scabies”
- Itching, especially at night
- Rashes, especially between the fingers
- Sores (abrasions) on the skin from scratching and digging
- Thin, pencil-mark lines on the skin
Mites may be more widespread on a baby’s skin, causing pimples over the trunk, or small blisters, over the palms and soles
- In young children, the head, neck, shoulders, palms, and soles are involved.
- In older children and adults, the hands, wrists, genitals, and abdomen are involved.
Prescription medicated creams are commonly used to treat scabies infections. The most commonly used cream Is Elimite Cream.
- Apply a thin layer of the Elimite Cream (available by prescription only) from neck to toes so that there is not a single place for the mite or egg to hide and remain untreated.
- Pay special attention to the areas between fingers and toes, under nails, groin, armpits, buttocks, palms and soles of feet. Leave the medicine on for 8-10 hours or overnight.
- Shower the medicine off with soap and water.
- Put on clean clothes and put clean sheets and pillowcases on the bed.
- Wash your sheets, pajamas, towels and any clothes worn during the previous week.
Wash underwear, towels, and sleepwear in hot water. Vacuum the carpets and upholstered furniture.
For difficult cases, some health care providers may also prescribe medication taken by mouth to kill the scabies mites. Ivermectin is a pill that may be used. Itching may continue for 2 weeks or more after treatment begins, but it will disappear if you follow your health care provider’s treatment plan. You can reduce itching with cool soaks and calamine lotion. Your doctor may also recommend an oral antihistamine.