Ask anyone who works in a school, daycare facility or nursing home which health conditions cause the most anxiety, and scabies will likely be on the top of the list.
This highly-contagious mite can spread rapidly from person to person, especially among people in close quarters such as a family, child care setting, classroom or nursing home, Symptoms can begin within days of exposure, but may rarely take up to 6 weeks. Therefore, it is possible for a person to spread the infection before he or she is even symptomatic.
Luckily, scabies is easily treated once diagnosed. You can help prevent the spread of scabies by recognizing the signs and symptoms of scabies and seeking evaluation by a dermatologist if you think you may have a scabies infection.
What is Scabies?
Sarcoptes scabiei is a type o burrowing mite that lives in the most superficial layers of the skin, particularly in the skin folds. The scabies mite cannot survive without a host for more than two or three days.
The tiny pest’s short life expectancy encourages it to quickly grab on to whomever is nearby to ensure its survival. Thus, scabies can spread through extended physical contact – as well as through the bedding, clothes and other personal effects of an infected person.
The first symptom of scabies is an itchy rash on the legs, arms, or hands. The itching generally grows in severity over time, becoming especially troublesome at night.
In fact, if it is left untreated, it can make it nearly impossible for an infected person to get any sleep. The diagnosis is generally made by finding characteristic burrows on the skin and taking a skin scraping or biopsy to verify the presence of the mite.
In order to ensure that a person is completely cured of a scabies infestation, appropriate treatment is essential. In general, two main treatment options are available. On approach involves the application of a cream – usually Permethrin (Elimite). The cream is applied to the entire body from the neck down and left on the skin for 8-10 hours.
This treatment is often repeated in one week. Another treatment option is an oral medication called Ivermectin which is not recommended for pregnant women, nursing mothers or young children weighing less than 33 pounds.
Doctors also suggest washing all bedding and clothing that an infected person has been in contact with in hot water and then drying the items on high heat to ensure that none of the mites survive.
Scabies isn’t dangerous, and it’s very treatable – but the little critters are still a daunting problem to deal with as a parent, caretaker or patient. If you need some professional help with a possible scabies infestation, we’re here for you. Click here to request an appointment.