What is scabies?
Scabies is a skin condition that is caused by scabies mites. Scabies mites are tiny bugs that burrow, lay eggs, and live underneath the skin.
What causes scabies?
Scabies is spread through close contact with a person who has scabies. This includes having sex, sleeping in the same bed, or sharing towels or clothing. Scabies spreads quickly and must be treated as soon as it is found.
What are the signs and symptoms of scabies?
Most people do not know they have scabies until a few weeks after mites are under the skin. Scabies mites are too small to be seen on your body. You may have bad itching that is usually worse at night. Signs of scabies include red, raised bumps, or burrow marks. Burrow marks look like short wavy lines on the skin. They may be found on and between your fingers, wrists, ankles, elbows, groin, armpits, and breasts. Children may also have them on the hands, feet, body folds, and head.
How is scabies diagnosed?
Your caregiver will examine your skin. He will put mineral oil on your skin and scrape across it with a tiny blade. The skin scraping will be checked for eggs, mites, or their droppings under a microscope. Sometimes caregivers do not find signs of mites from scraping, but may treat you for scabies anyway.
How is scabies treated?
There is more than one medicine cream that may be used to treat scabies. Always read the directions and follow your caregiver's directions for scabies medicines.
- Your caregiver may tell you to rub a thin layer of the medicine onto your entire body from the neck down. For babies and toddlers, you may also be told to rub the medicine on the scalp.
- Leave the cream on for the amount of time that is required for the medicine you are using. This may be between 8 to 14 hours.
- Take a bath or shower to wash all medicine from the skin after the scabies treatment is over.
- Put on clean clothes after you have rinsed the medicine off. You may need another scabies treatment in about 7 to 10 days if you continue to have symptoms.
What can I do about the itching?
Your skin may continue to itch for 2 or 3 weeks, even after the scabies mites are gone. Over-the-counter antihistamines may help relieve itching. Ask your caregiver what medicine you may use for the itching. Trim your and your child's fingernails. If some of the mites are still alive after the scabies treatment, scratching can spread them. Put mittens on small children to keep them from scratching. Scratching can also cause a skin infection.
How do I prevent the spread of scabies?
- Treat all family members with scabies medicine. Tell all sex partners and anyone who has shared your clothing or bed for the past month about the scabies. Tell them to use scabies medicine even if they have no itching, rash, or burrow marks.
- Wash all items that you have used since 3 days before you learned about your scabies. Use hot water to wash all clothing, bedding, and towels. Dry them for at least 20 minutes on the hot cycle of a dryer. Dry clean items that cannot be washed in a washing machine. Place any clothing or bedding that cannot be washed or dry cleaned in a closed plastic bag for 1 week.
- Do not have close body contact with anyone until the scabies mites are gone.
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- The bites become filled with pus or crusty.
- The itching gets worse after the scabies treatment.
- You have new bite or burrow marks after your treatment.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek care immediately?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You become dizzy, nauseous, or vomit after using medicine to treat scabies.
- You have a seizure after using medicine to treat scabies.
- You develop a fever and red, swollen, painful areas on your skin.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.