Scabies is a skin infestation of the human itch mite. The female scabies burrow and lay eggs in the skin’s epidermis. Symptoms include severe itching and a rash that may not appear until six weeks after the infestation. Because of this delay in symptoms, a person can be spreading scabies unknowingly. Scabies is spread through close personal contact. A doctor will confirm the diagnosis after the mite, eggs or fecal matter is identified in a skin scraping. Treatment includes a scabicide to kill the scabies and antihistamines and hydrocortisone for itching.
Scabies can live on clothing or other materials for up to 72 hours. The mites usually only live for two to three days without human skin contact.
Symptoms of scabies may take up to two to six weeks to appear for a person's first case. During this time, scabies can be transmitted and found on clothing. However, if this is a person’s second or more time having scabies, symptoms may appear within one to four days.
The earlier scabies is diagnosed and treated, the better for the infected person and those who surround him or her. Common places of scabies outbreaks include nursing homes, childcare facilities and prisons.
Scabies is treated with prescribed scabacides, which are ointments that are applied to the entire body. After treatment scabies can be contagious for up to 24 to 48 hours. If new rashes appear, a second treatment may be necessary.
To prevent the spread of scabies, all clothes, bedding and towels should be washed in hot water or sealed in a plastic bag for 72 hours. The entire house should be vacuumed and the vacuum bag should be thrown away. The infected individual should stay isolated for 48 hours after treatment to prevent the infestation of others.
Treatment is also advised for household members and sexual partners. Everyone should receive treatment simultaneously to prevent reinfestation. Scabies can infest all age rages from babies to the elderly.
Remember to clean or seal everything including toys, stuffed animals, computers, cars, telephones, seating and hats. Scabies can crawl on to anything and live for up to 72 hours.
If left untreated, the symptoms will worsen and the sores can become a bacterial skin infection. Call your doctor if new rashes or sores appear after 24 to 48 hours after scabicide treatment.
If the rash or sores cover large areas of the body, they may become encrusted leading to Norwegian scabies or otherwise known as crusted scabies.
Norwegian scabies is a larger infestation with the possibility of one person having millions of mites in the skin. This type of scabies is prone to the elderly, those with lowered immune systems or neurological diseases.
In dogs and cats, scabies is referred to as mange. Scabies can only live on humans.
Although scabies is often contracted through sexual relations, any human body is receptive to a scabies infestation. Scabies thrive in damp, warm places making the groin and buttocks ideal locations.