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Home / Scabies

Scabies

Causes, Symptoms and Treatments for Rash and Mites (Sarcoptes Scabiei)

Scabies is a skin condition caused by mites that burrow in the skin. It is not classed as a serious condition, but it is very infectious and causes intense itching. To treat scabies, and prevent spreading the rash further over the body or to loved ones, you can order scabies treatment online.

What is scabies?

Scabies is a contagious skin condition that is caused by microscopic mites burrowing and living in the skin. It is an infestation, not an infection, and presents with intense itching and an angry, red rash.

Scabies is often associated with poorer areas where people live in close proximity. However, in recent years many cases have been reported in both the USA and the UK.

Many people associate scabies with poor hygiene, but anyone can contract this condition if they come into contact with someone carrying the mites.

It is normally transferred through skin-to-skin contact and, contrary to popular belief, you cannot get scabies from pets.

Common places for scabies to be found (and spread) include:

  • Nurseries or day-care centres
  • University halls of residence
  • Nursing homes

If a member of your household has scabies, the other people living in the house must be treated at the same time. This applies even if they do not have any symptoms.

Also, individuals with scabies must contact any sexual partners they've had in the last 8 weeks should be treated too.

If you have scabies, you must treat it quickly to stop it spreading. Your pharmacist can help you decide which topical cream or lotion to use to kill the mites and destroy their eggs.

The mites are unlikely to disappear on their own, so you must seek treatment. If you do not, your scratching may cause eczema and other chronic skin conditions.

Ask for advice from your pharmacist or doctor about your course of treatment. As scabies presents in a similar way to other skin conditions, it's important to determine that you are treating the correct thing.

What causes scabies?

Scabies is caused by a small eight-legged mite called the Sarcoptes scabiei. It is a burrowing mite that needs a human host to survive.

The female mites are the ones that burrow beneath your skin. In so doing, they create a tunnel where they deposit eggs and die.

They tend to burrow close to the hands and wrists and can grow between 0.3 and 0.45mm long. The female mites are much larger than the males.

After the female has died, the eggs hatch and the larvae work their way to the surface of your skin. You will not be able to see them because they are microscopic.

It will take these larvae approximately two weeks to reach full maturity and they have a total life expectancy of six weeks. As they mature, they spread to other areas of your skin and to the skin of other people.

The reason scabies is so itchy is that it's primarily an allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs and their waste products (including faeces and saliva). The burrowing contributes to this, as well as to the redness of the rash.

Scabies is highly contagious and spreads via physical contact. That's why it is very common for families, groups of children, people in nursing homes and prisons to contract the condition.

High-risk groups, such as those with chronic health conditions that weaken the immune system, the very ill, or those in nursing homes are much more susceptible to crusted scabies.

Also known as Norwegian scabies, crusted scabies is a very severe form of the condition. It results in crusty, scaly skin, it often covers large areas of the body and is hard to treat.

Many believe that you can get scabies from cats and dogs; however, this is not the case as they carry their own species of mite. Humans may have a temporary allergic reaction to animal scabies, but it is unlikely to progress much further than that.

What are the symptoms of scabies?

Scabies is very infectious, and it can take up to eight weeks for the rash to appear due to the lifespan of the mites and the number of mites on the skin.

The first symptom you are likely to experience is intense itching, which is usually worse at night.

You will then see silvery lines with a dot at the end on patches around your skin. These are burrow tracks, made up of blisters and bumps, and this is where the mites lay their eggs.

These tracks can appear almost anywhere on the body, but typically present in the folds of your skin. In adults, you'll usually find them in, on or around the:

  • Shoulder blades
  • Arm pits
  • Breasts
  • Inner elbow
  • Insides of wrists
  • Between fingers
  • Waist
  • Buttocks
  • Male genital area
  • Knees
  • Soles of feet

Scabies presents slightly differently in young children, more commonly affecting the scalp, face, neck, palms of hands and soles of feet.

A rash forms where the tracks are, spreads and turns into tiny red spots as the larvae mature. Eventually, scabies can spread across the entire body if left untreated. However, it very rarely reaches the head in adults.

If you have previously had scabies, the itching symptoms may develop shortly after exposure. However, if you have never had the condition before, it could take up to six weeks to present with symptoms. During this time, you are still contagious.

The symptoms of scabies can cause complications. Vigorous scratching can break the skin and increase the possibility of secondary bacterial infections such as impetigo (usually caused by strep or staph infections).

How to treat scabies

It is important to diagnose and treat scabies as quickly as possible. If you suspect you have the condition, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

They'll help determine the exact cause of your rash and ensure that you receive proper treatment. They'll do this by examining the skin, looking for signs of mites and eggs. If they find burrow tracks, they might take a skin scraping to examine under a microscope to be sure that the mites are present.

If you are unable to see a doctor, ask your pharmacist for assistance in picking the right medication to use to eliminate the infestation.

They will generally suggest a cream or lotion that you apply to your whole body. The most effective are permethrin cream, crotamiton cream or lotion and malathion liquid.

Take care to read the instructions as these are powerful medications, especially if you are treating a child.

Usually, you will have to leave the medication on for at least eight hours and repeat again a week later. You will need follow-up treatments if new burrows and rashes appear.

If you have a weak immune system, a severe form of the disease (crusted scabies) or do not respond to the creams and lotions, you can try oral medications to get rid of the mites.

It is important to note that while the treatment will kill the mites very quickly, the itching may persist for a few weeks.

There are several lifestyle and home remedies you can use to relieve this. Start by cooling and soaking your skin by using a wet washcloth or a cool bath.

Then apply soothing lotion, such as calamine, to the affected area(s). This should relieve pain and itching.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can take antihistamines with your current medications. These can reduce your allergy symptoms and ease your discomfort.

You must do all you can to stop scabies from spreading, as it can be a very uncomfortable condition. It's recommended that entire households seek treatment as the mites may be present on their skin, even if the symptoms aren't. This will reduce the risk of recurrence.

To prevent the spread of the mites, wash all your bedding and clothing at 50˚C or higher as soon as you begin treatment. If you cannot wash certain items, place them in a sealed bag for three days to starve the mites of oxygen and kill them.

Give babies and children socks or mittens to cover their hands with. This will stop them sucking the medication.

Do not have sex or close physical contact with anyone until the treatment is complete. And, do not share bedding or towels with someone who has scabies.

If your child has scabies, you should let their school know. However, they should be able to return to school 24 hours after their first treatment. If you have the condition, you can return to work at that point too.

If your skin still itches four weeks after treatment, visit your doctor to discuss further treatment options.

How to buy Scabies medications online

You can buy treatment for scabies online after completing a quick consultation. This is free and reviewed by our partner doctor to ensure you're getting the right treatment for you. We have a free next-day delivery across the UK, same-day delivery in London and thousands of UPS Pickup points.