Scabies is a skin condition caused by infestation with the mite Sarcoptes scabeii. The mites themselves are not visible to the unaided eye. The reaction triggered by the presence of mites in the skin is what causes the noticeable symptoms. Small, very itchy red bumps and tiny blister-like bumps filled with clear fluid are the usual signs of infestation. Scabies is contagious and can be contracted by contact with persons or objects (such as sheets or towels) that are contaminated with these mites. Symptoms can take several weeks to develop, so identifying the source of the infestation can be difficult. Bathing does not get rid of these mites because they are only on the surface for a brief period of time before they burrow under the skin.
- The usual treatment for scabies is topical permethrin cream that is applied to the entire body (except for the head). Complete coverage including skin folds and creases such as those between the fingers and toes and around genital areas is necessary for effective treatment. This treatment is applied at night and washed off in the morning. Permethrin must be reapplied again in this manner in another 4-7 days.
- Young children and pregnant women are treated with sulfur/petrolatum ointment instead of permethrin.
- All clothing and bedding must be washed in hot water and dried on a high heat. This should be done the morning after the cream is applied to kill any adult mites that are in search of a host.
- Oral medication such as ivermectin (a broad spectrum anti-parasitic) is a less common treatment that may be prescribed based on the severity and resistance of the infestation.
Re-infestation after treatment is common if the mites have not been fully eradicated from the living environment. If one person in a household has scabies, all members of the family may need to be treated at the same time to eliminate the mites.
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