Scabies mites have caused infestations in the human skin for at least 2,500 years, with around 300 million cases reported world-wide each year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). With proper identification and treatment of the infestation, which causes a highly itchy, pimple-like rash, it's possible to get rid of scabies that burrow under the skin without infestation becoming any more than a transitory nuisance.
Things You'll Need
- Scabies medication prescribed by your doctor
- Washer and dryer
- Laundry detergent
- Vacuum cleaner
- Plastic bags or containers
See your doctor to make sure you do have scabies. Your doctor will perform a physical examination, including identification of the mites burrows (the places in the skin where the female mite lays her eggs). Often, a painless scraping of the skin is taken and visualized under a microscope to confirm the presence of the mites or scabies eggs. If scabies are found, your doctor will prescribe a topical medication (cream or lotion) for you to use to kill the mites under your skin--as well as their eggs.
Start with clean, dry skin. The International Foundation for Dermatology (IFD) advises taking a warm bath--don't use hot water, as this can cause the topical medication to absorb into the blood vessels rather than the outer layer of the skin. Dry off thoroughly.
Apply the topical medication from the chin down. (The Mayo Clinic notes that two commonly prescribed topical medications for scabies are permethrin and crotamiton.) The IFD stresses that you should cover every inch of the body, including the external genitals and under the beds of the fingernails and toenails.
Use the recommended amount of topical medication, the IFD advises. Using too little may not kill the scabies mites that burrow under your skin. Using too much may cause irritated skin.
Leave the scabies medication on for the time specified by your physician. The Mayo Clinic indicates that this is generally around eight hours. Afterward, you can rinse off the medication in the shower or bath. (The IFD notes that many topical medications are applied just before bedtime.)
Address scabies mites in the household. Wash clothes and linens in hot, soapy water at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and dry on high heat for at least 20 minutes, advises the American Social Health Association (ASHA). Items that can't be washed and dried may be taken to a dry cleaner or stored in plastic bags or containers outside the home for two weeks. Vacuum carpeting and furniture, and toss out the bag.
Tips & Warnings
- Cleaning your home environment is a crucial part of successfully eliminating human infestation, notes the AAD.
- The IFD urges that all people living under the same roof be treated for scabies infestations at the same time, whether or not they show signs or symptoms of scabies.
- A common misconception about scabies is that it's transmitted by animals, notes the IFD; scabies infestations are only transmitted among human beings.
- Children and patients with suppressed immune systems may require topical treatment on their heads, as well.
- Don't wash your hands after treatment, unless you're preparing or handling food. If you must wash your hands, apply the medication again.
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