Scabies is considered as a prevalent skin infection triggered by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. This skin infection affects millions of individuals all over the globe yearly which causes an extremely itchy rash that can cover the whole body. Remember that this infection is contagious and quickly spreads among family members or close contact with others. Outbreaks are quite common in nursing homes, hospitals and day care centers.
It is important to note that scabies is transmitted through direct skin contact with an infected individual, but it is also possible to become infected after contact with contaminated bedding or clothing.
The mites burrow into the skin to lay eggs and leave behind droppings which can cause hypersensitivity in the skin, resulting to a very itchy rash. The eggs hatch after a few days, releasing the larva that continues the cycle.
How scabies is diagnosed
The doctor will check the symptoms and the appearance of the skin rash. Individuals with scabies typically have a generalized or full body itchy rash, but it does not affect the scalp or face.
The itchiness can become intense in the armpits, between the webs of the fingers, at the waistline, over the joints of the elbows and wrist and in the groin and buttock areas. The rashes appear as small-sized bumps or elevated line or burrows in which the mites dig into the skin. If these areas are scratched, patches of eczema and even bacterial skin infections can develop.
In some cases, a skin scrape or biopsy is performed to check for the presence of mites under a microscope. This is the only sure way to come up with a diagnosis of scabies, but not usually done in most healthcare facilities.
Management of scabies
The treatment for scabies typically involves oral or topical medications. The preferred treatment involves the use of permethrin cream that is applied to the entire body from the neck up to the toes and washed off after 8-14 hours. In studies conducted, many individuals are effectively treated but some might require another application 14 days later if the symptoms persist. Take note the permethrin is considered safe with minimal side effects and can be used on children as young as 2 months old.
Lindane cream is the second choice of treatment due to its potential side effects. The application is similar to permethrin and almost as effective.
In some cases, the topical treatments are not effective. It might be due to certain factors such as intolerance by the individual, cause stinging or burning sensation, too messy or the skin is severely damaged. In such circumstances, one dose of oral ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for scabies.
How to prevent scabies re-infection
Remember that it is possible to be re-infected with scabies. With this in mind, there are measures to consider.
- Other family members should undergo treatment for scabies even if they do not have any symptoms.
- Bedding and clothing should be machine-washed using hot water and dried using a clothes dryer the day after treatment was given.
- Any bedding, clothing or upholstered furniture that came in contact with the infected individual that could not be washed must be covered in plastic for at least 48-72 hours. Once mites do not come in contact with humans during this time frame, they will not survive.