What is Scabies?
It is a contagious skin infection that is spread by a tiny mite that burrows in the skin and is also known as the ‘seven year itch’. These mites breed on your skin and lay eggs by burrowing from the surface. This causes itchiness and red rashes on the affected area. The scabies infection rashes resemble pimples or bumps. The infected person may also see red lines on the surface of the skin which are nothing but the tracks of the burrows made by the mites. About 130 million people in the world suffer from scabies infection at any given point of time and to make it even worse, it can give you sleepless nights because of the itchiness too.
Causes of scabies infection
The infection is contagious and can be spread even by scratching the infected area. Prolonged skin-to- skin contact with an infected person can additionally cause the infection to spread. It can also spread by sharing objects like towels, clothes or bedding. In adults, sexual contact is the most common form of transmission of scabies. Due to this reason, it can be considered by many as a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Many people believe that you can contract the infection from animals too. However, pets or animals are not responsible for spreading the scabies infection in humans.
Symptoms of scabies infection
Excessive and severe itching is usually considered as the most significant symptoms of scabies. The itching worsens at night and after a hot bath. This skin infection also produces a skin rash that appears soon after the itching starts. These signs and symptoms may take 2-6 weeks to develop after the first infection. However, if you have already been infected and then get re-infected, you may notice symptoms within hours.
It is usually observed on the elbow, armpit, nipples, penis, wrist, waist and the area between the fingers. An important thing to note is that scabies symptoms may not appear immediately after being infested with the mites. The rashes may take up to 2 months to appear but the infected person can still spread the infection.
Diagnosis of scabies infection
Doctors can diagnose the infection after physical examination of the symptoms like rashes and burrows. Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between a scabies rash and some other skin infection. In such a case, a skin scraping test is done to confirm the skin condition. If your close family member has similar symptoms, then scabies is most likely.
How to get rid of scabies infection?
This infection caused by mites doesn’t go away on its own. You need treatment to reduce the itching and skin rashes. If you delay treatment, there is a risk that your skin condition can get worse and also that you might pass the infection on to someone else.
Permethrin cream is an insecticide that can kills the mites. But high doses of permethrin can have tangible neurotoxic effects on humans; hence it is imperative to check with your GP before using this treatment. Malathion 0.5% aqueous liquid can also be used for the treatment. Other treatments include lindane, benzyl benzoate, crotamiton, sulfur preparations and Ivermectin.
These contain powerful natural ingredients such as tea tree oil, aloe vera or clove oil that can effectively control the symptoms of scabies infection and provide relief. Unlike prescription treatments, the natural treatments do not cause any known side effects. You can also try these natural remedies to prevent itchy skin.
Other tips to get rid of scabies infection completely:
- Wash all bed covers, pillows, towels and clothing with hot water to get rid of the mites, and eggs if any, as the scabies mite can survive for about 48-72 hours after falling off from the body.
- All these items must also be dried in a dryer on a high heat setting for 10-20 minutes. If you are unable to wash the items immediately, seal them in plastic bags to keep all scabies infection at bay.
- Vacuuming or cleaning the entire area with hot water and bleach can also help remove the mites that may have fallen off from the infected person.
- Eating a healthy diet, exercising and taking enough rest when suffering from this skin condition can help provide relief.
- An infected person must ensure that you do not spread the scabies mites in any possible way.
The Final Word
Most often, topical treatments are used to get rid of the scabies infection. However, the process takes time and patience. You might experience itching even when rashes begin healing but if you still experience no improvement after 5-6 weeks, you may visit a doctor. Since most over-the-counter medication is composed of harsh chemicals that may have some side effects on your skin, it is better to opt for natural solutions to get relief from scabies infection.