Scabies is not an infection. It is an infestation of microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei, which can actually live on your skin for months. They reproduce on the outer layers of the skin and then burrow into it and lay eggs. This causes itching and red rashes on the skin. This dermatologic condition is contagious and can spread easily from one person to another through close physical contact. Infestation of mites may also be transmitted through infested clothing, and bedding.
The skin of a person who is infested with scabies for the first time would have symptoms come out between four to six weeks. However, the symptoms usually develop more quickly in people who have had scabies before. The most common symptoms include:
- Intense itching especially in the evening
- Scales or blisters
- Sores caused by scratching
Scabies usually appear on the wrists, elbows, armpits, nipples, penis, waist, buttocks, and the area between fingers both between older children and adults. In babies and toddlers, and sometimes the elderly, scabies appear on the head, face, neck, hands, and soles of the feet.
In the early stages, scabies may be mistaken for other skin conditions because the rash looks similar. It can be mistaken for acne or mosquito bites. However, what sets scabies apart is the relentless itch. There are raised lines on the skin if a person has scabies. These lines are tunnels created by female mites just under the surface of the skin. This is where the female mites lay 10 to 25 eggs inside.
Types of Scabies
This usually causes an itchy rash on the hands, wrists, and other common spots except the scalp or face.
This type may develop as itchy, raised bumps especially in the genital areas, armpits, or groin.
Getting rid of the infestation using prescription ointments or lotions is usually the cure for scabies. The doctor may advise to apply the medicine at night when the mites are actually active. At first sign of inexplainable and relentlessly itchy rashes, see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Some common medicines used to treat scabies include the following:
- 5% permethrin cream
- 25% benzyl benzoate lotion
- 10% sulfur ointment
- 10% crotamiton cream
- 1% lindane lotion
Most topical preparations are applied at night and washed off in the morning. Doctors may also prescribe additional medications to relieve other symptoms such as antihistamine, or pramoxine lotion to control the itch, antibiotics to kill infections as a result of constantly scratching, and steroid creams to relieve swelling and itching.
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies
- Avoid unwashed clothing or bedding used by a person with an infestation
- Wash clothing, bedding, towels, and pillows in hot water that reaches 122 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 degrees Celsius the dry on a very high heat for at least 10 to 30 minutes
- Vacuum anything that cannot be washed then throw the vacuum bag and thoroughly clean the vacuum with bleach and hot water
Scabies or Bed Bugs?
Both mites feed off the human body. The difference is that bed bugs do it from outside of the body, while scabies do it from inside. Both mites are microscopic, however sometimes, bedbugs can be seen without special equipment. When it comes to rashes, a bed bug rash is just seen around the bitten area. Scabies often appears more widespread and makes scaly or lumpy bumps. Both treatments require treating other people in the house as well the entire environment. Bed bugs however, are more difficult to eliminate and may require the help of a professional exterminator.