Scabies is a very itchy, contagious skin infection caused by the scabies mite.
You get rashes and pimples because of an allergic reaction to the scabies mites’ eggs and faeces.
The good news is that scabies is treatable!
How do you get scabies?
You can get scabies by close body contact, which includes having sex. Another way to get scabies is to share bedding, clothes, or furniture with someone infected with scabies.
Crowded places such as prisons, nursing homes, and child-care facilities are ideal spreading grounds for a scabies infection.
It’s important to be aware that a person infected with scabies can spread it without having any symptoms.
How can you protect yourself against scabies?
1. Stop having sex with someone infected with scabies.
2. Wash bedding, clothing, and other shared items in extremely hot water.
If you share bedding or clothing with an infected person, it’s important to wash these items in extremely hot water, at 60 degree Celsius or hotter. Items that can’t be washed, such as mattresses or cushions, dry clean them or seal them in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours.
In general, scabies mites can’t survive without human skin for more than two to three days.
3. Get treated for scabies infection.
If any member in your household has a scabies infection, seek treatment for it. A scabies infection can be transmitted without a person having symptoms.
What are the signs that you’ve got scabies?
If you’re infected with scabies, you’ll begin to notice symptoms within two to six weeks of getting infected. Sometimes symptoms may appear as quickly as four days after infection.
During this time you can spread the infection to people you live with, sexual partners, or anyone else you’re in close physical contact with. So if you’ve got signs of scabies infection, let these people know so they can seek treatment too.
You get symptoms because of an allergic reaction to scabies mites’ eggs and faeces. At first you may have a mild skin irritation followed by intense itching all over your body. This intense itching is particularly bad at night or after a hot shower or bath.
You may get pimple-like or itchy rashes on areas such as:
- Between fingers
- Under the breasts
- Around the anus
How do you get tested for scabies?
Go to your doctor or nearest health care provider for a diagnosis. They’ll look to see if you have skin rashes in a characteristic scabies pattern. Sometimes they’ll scrape your pimples or rashes and examine the scrapings under a microscope to see if there are mites, eggs, or scabies mite faeces.
How do you get rid of scabies?
Getting rid of scabies involves three steps: medication, washing infected items, and informing any sexual partners or people who’ve come into contact with your clothing and bedding.
And if you still have itching, new burrows, or pimple-like rashes two to four weeks after treatment, you may need to go through this process again.
1. Scabies medication
Washing with ordinary soap won’t make a difference. There are no over-the-counter or non-prescription scabies treatments. So go to your doctor or health care provider if you’ve got scabies symptoms.
Purchase the prescribed scabicide (medication that kills scabies) lotion or cream. Prior to applying it on your body, wash and towel yourself dry. Apply the scabicide all over your body from your neck down to your toes.
If you’re treating infants and children, the scabicides need to also be applied to the face, scalp, and neck area. Leave the treatment on for the recommended time before washing it off.
2. Hot Water Washing
Wash any of your clothes that you wore before getting treatment and any of your bedding in water that’s 60° Celsius or hotter. If you can’t wash your clothes, either dry clean them or seal them in a plastic bag for 72 hours. Do this also with your mattress and pillows. Otherwise, you can become re-infected with scabies.
Without human skin to live in, mites generally don’t survive for more than two to three days.
3. Informing your sexual partners
Tell your sexual partner(s) or anyone else who may have come into contact with your bedding, clothing, or towels to get tested and treated too. Otherwise you could end up getting scabies again.