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Scabies is an irritating condition of the skin caused by infestation of microscopic mites. This condition affects people all over the world. It is very common in places such as old age homes, childcare centers, hostels, etc. as it spreads through skin-to-skin contact.


Scabies is a skin infestation caused by the human itch mite – Sarcoptesscabieivar. hominis.These mites have bristles and spines on them and are cream colored. The female mite burrows herself in the upper layer of the skin. Here, she lays her eggs, about 3 eggs a day. The female mite is just a few millimeters long. She tends to travel up to 3 centimeters/minutes. The eggs she lays hatches into larvae in about 10 to 14 days. Soon they find their way to the surface of the skin.

The scabies mites can live for about 2 months. They mate on the skin and spread to other people’s skins on contact. The infection spreads when an impregnated female mite gets transferred to a healthy skin with a simple touch or brushing against the skin of an infected person. Thus, scabies can easily get transferred from one family member to the other as well as sexual partners. It also spreads in schools, nursing homes, prisons or places where people live in close quarters with each other.

How Do I Recognize a Scabies Infestation?

Symptoms of scabies appear after about 4 to 6 weeks of infestation. These symptoms are usually due to the allergic reaction caused by the mites, their eggs, saliva or waste products. The allergic reaction takes time to appear for the first time. In case, one was previously infected, the symptoms will appear within 1 to 4 days after being exposed.

The mites are very active at night. This is the time when one develops intense itching as well as a rash. The itching compels one to itch continuously,leading to sores that can become infected with bacterial infections.

In case of babies and toddlers infected with scabies, the commonplaces of infestation include the head, face, neck, palms and soles. In case of older children and adults, the common infection sites include the wrist, elbow, armpits, nipple, penis, waist, between the fingers, beltline as well as the buttocks.

The rash appears like pimples grouped together as tiny blisters. In some cases, it is a scaly rash. The mite burrows appear as tiny, raised, flesh-toned or pale white lines.


The doctor will observe the characteristic rash or burrow lines caused by the mites. A needle or scalpel blade will be used to scarp the burrows. The scraps will be observed under the microscope for mites or eggs. However, if no mites are found, it does not mean negative result. In many people, less than 10 to 15 mites. Thus, they are easily skipped in scrappings.


The treatment is almost immediate and requires application all over the body from the neck down. The medicine is usually applied at night as this is the time the mites are most active. One has to bathe the next morning after the application of the cream. These topical creams include permethian cream, benzyle benzoate lotion, sulfur ointment, crotamiton cream and lindane lotion.

Antihistamines or prazmoxine lotion is prescribed to each the itchy symptoms and help one rest. In case of infections, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat it. The swelling and itching is reduced with the help of steroid creams.

In case of aggressive or widespread scabies, ivermectin pill is given. This pill can lead to many side effects, thus, make sure you speak to your doctor about it when prescribed.

The symptoms may worsen during the first week of treatment. They will soon become less severe, that is, less intense itching afterwards. The symptoms will disappear completely within 4 weeks of the treatment. Any skin that is not healed, will remain infested with mites.

How to Eradicate Mites from Surroundings?

Mites can live for 2 to 3 days away from the human body. Thus, it is important to clean all the clothing, bedding, towels, pillows, curtains, blankets, etc. Wash them all in hot water and dry them well. Things that cannot be washed should be vacuumed. Throw away the vacuum bag after you finish vacuuming. Use bleach and hot water to clean surfaces that cannot be washed or vacuumed.

It is important to maintain a good personal hygiene. Never share your clothes, towels, etc. with anyone. Avoid sending children with infestation to school, till the symptoms are eliminated. If you observe any rash or itchiness on your body, that refuses to go away and keeps spreading, speak to a doctor immediately.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 07, 2015

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