Scabies (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis) are small, eight-legged, mites that burrow under human skin. Scabies infection causes intense itching and a tell-tale rash of bumpy, red lines. Scabies are highly contagious. People can transmit scabies through casual contact, and by sharing personal items such as bed linens and mattresses. Mattress infestation can be difficult to quell, as they cannot be machine-washed and dried to kill the bugs. There are several measures you can take to kill scabies on a mattress to prevent re-infestation.
Spray both sides of the mattress with permethrin spray. Permethrin is a pesticide commonly used to kill head-lice and also kills scabies. Permethrin spray can be purchased over the counter at most drug stores. Do not allow anyone to touch the mattress until the spray has dried thoroughly. Permethrin is a neurotoxin that can be dangerous to humans, and should be used cautiously. This is also the active ingredient in Food and Drug Administration-approved topical scabies medications.
Vacuum both sides of the mattress thoroughly. Scabies can live on the mattress for up to 72 hours without a human host. For this reason, the bed should be vacuumed every three days until the skin infestation is gone. This will help remove mite eggs and prevent them from hatching in the mattress. It is essential to wash and dry all bedding on the hottest possible setting so that no new scabies infest the mattress.
Use a plastic under-sheet and change linens daily. It may take several applications of the lotion or cream prescribed by the doctor to kill scabies. These permethrin-based lotions do not penetrate scabies eggs, which may fall on the mattress and hatch. A plastic sheet prevents the mites and their eggs from ever touching the mattress. Fresh linens protect against reinfestation. Place pillows in the dryer on the hottest setting possible for an hour each day until you get the all-clear from your doctor.
Repeat the entire process every two weeks until the doctor confirms that the skin infestation is gone. Scabies is easily spread and hard to kill. This makes reinfestation quite common. Also, scabies infection may not produce any symptoms for as long as six weeks after infection. Scabies is contagious with or without symptoms, so mattress care cannot be neglected. It is impossible to tell if you have vacuumed all of the eggs out of the mattress. These eggs may hatch and infest anyone who uses the mattress.