Scabies is a very common cause of a very itchy, red rash.
It is a condition that causes a lot of stress and embarrassment but really it is common and should be easily diagnosed and quickly treated.
What Exactly is Scabies?
Scabies is an infection with a tiny mite that burrows under the skin causing an itch reaction. It actually is quite difficult to contract scabies requiring skin contact for 10-15 minutes to transmit the more to another person. Rarely scabies can also be transmitted from bedding, towels, clothes and furniture when an infected person has a severe (crusted) version.
While we all probably feel a little itchy even reading this it actually takes 3-6 weeks to develop symptoms after becoming infested.
- Widespread itching (usually worse at night)
- History of close contacts (family / flatmates) also itching
- A rash with little red nodules and signs of scratching
- Visible burrows in which mites travel
We usually diagnose scabies with history or exam.
Treatment is available over the counter so if a household contact has been diagnosed and you have symptoms there is no need to visit your doctor unless you are concerned, you can get treatment directly.
- Treat all household members, close and sexual contacts
- Treatment (example shown above) should be applied to everyone on the same day and repeated one week later
- Apply treatment to the whole body including scalp, neck, face, ears and especially between fingers and under nails. Apply at night and wash off the next day
- Clothes, towels and bed linen should be washed at a high temperature. Clothes that can’t be washed should be kept in plastic bags for 72 hours to kill the mites
- This process MUST be repeated after 7 days
- Itch can be a major problem. Antihistamines can be helpful as can emollients and occasionally topical steroids may be needed.
Special Cases needing Medical Attention:
- Suspected scabies in children less than 2 years of age
- Breastfeeding or pregnant women
- New rash after treatment
- Itching continuing 6 weeks after treatment