What Are Scabies?

Scabies is a common skin disease caused by a parasitic mite. It lives just below the surface of the human skin, feeding on blood, and benefiting from the warmth of the skin to survive. If dropped from the body, a scabies mite dies within 48 hours. The female mite lays eggs beneath the skin, which, in a few days, develop into young mites. These cause symptoms of the disease that include: intense itching (particularly at night); appearance of small, red bumps, blisters, or rash. Areas of body affected include wrists, webs and sides of fingers, elbows, armpits, stomach, waist, genitals, chest, and buttocks.

Scabies spread from person to person via direct physical (skin) contact (especially when the contact prevails for several minutes). Scabies simply jump from one person to another when they are in contact. Scabies mites may also spread through clothing and bedding when they are used immediately by one person after another who had scabies. Usually, scabies prevails more commonly in nursing homes, institutions, and child-care centers.

Scabies is commonly treated through medicated lotions that contain chemicals like lindane, permethrin, pyrethrin or crotamiton. These medications are available upon doctor's prescription only and must be used after reading the instructions carefully. To effectively kill the scabies mites, the lotion needs to be rubbed thoroughly into the skin of the entire body, starting from down the chin and right up to the toe. When applying to toddlers and young babies, the lotion should be rubbed in the scalp as well because scabies also infests the head region in children. As soon as one person of the family is diagnosed with scabies, he or she should be prevented from making physical contact with other members of the family. Scabies spread rapidly so if the symptoms have not yet appeared in other family members, they still should undergo clinical examination. It is important to remember that home remedies should not be used to treat scabies, and neither should steroids or other creams be used unless prescribed by a physician.

To prevent the infestation with scabies, kids with this disease should not be allowed to attend school or play with other kids. Adults should limit their physical contacts as soon as they are diagnosed with scabies. Rugs and furniture should be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner and the dirt should be disposed carefully. Clothing, bed linens, towels etc. should be washed and dried in a clean place for several days to kill all the scabies mites.

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