What is scabies?
Scabies is caused by a tiny parasitic mite that belongs to the arachnid family and that lives under the skin. The mites are virtually invisible to the naked eye. The female burrows into the skin where she lays her eggs. The eggs hatch and within very little time, the parasites mature and are able to reproduce at the surface of the skin and repeat the cycle. The mites that cause scabies in humans are different from those found on animals. It is therefore impossible to catch scabies from domestic animals.
How do I know if I have it?
Scabies causes intense itching that worsens at night and after bathing. It can also cause a rash that is similar in appearance to
eczema - inflamed blisters that burst and dry the skin. It can take several weeks for the allergic reaction to develop. The
burrows where the insects live appear as slightly grayish-white or pinkish lines on the skin. A microscopic examination is required to confirm the
The most commonly affected areas of the body are the hands, the folds between the fingers, the wrists, elbows and knees. The stomach, thighs, genitals and buttocks can also be affected. The face and back are generally spared.
How does one get it?
Scabies is highly contagious. It is often difficult to trace the source of the infestation since the itchiness takes some time to develop. Scabies is usually transmitted through direct prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infested person. Usually a quick handshake or hug will not spread scabies, except in certain cases. Transmission can also occur through indirect contact such as borrowing someone's clothes and sharing bedding or towels. Having scabies does not mean you have poor hygiene. You can effectively get rid of scabies provided you adhere to certain precautionary measures.
Getting rid of scabies essentially requires the use of a specially formulated insecticides, sold without prescription at your local pharmacy. These are lotions and creams that are applied over the entire body. Your pharmacist will be able to recommend a safe and effective product. If an infestation is suspected, it is important to notify anyone who may have come into contact with the affected person so they can initiate treatment if necessary.
It is important to mention that damage to the skin can occur as a result of prolonged scratching. Damaged skin increases the risk of developing bacterial infections (bacteria, fungi). Applying calamine lotion or cold compresses and taking antihistamines can help relieve the itchiness. Once effective treatment has been initiated, the itchiness may persist for a few more days while the skin eliminates the dead parasites along with their waste.
Since you can recontanimate yourself with contaminated items, it is important to disinfect any clothing or objects that may have come into contact with an infested person by washing them or having them dry cleaned. It is also important to thoroughly clean the various rooms, particularly furniture and carpets. To reduce the risk of reinfestation, the following measures are recommended:
- Wash clothing, hats, scarves, towels, bedding, etc. in hot water and dry in a hot dryer (for 20 minutes).
- Vacuum mattresses, carpets, rugs, stuffed furniture, stuffed toys, etc. Throw out vacuum bag after cleaning is completed.
- Place items that cannot be washed in a sealed bag for about a week - the time it will take for the mites to die.