SCABIES CAUSESScabies is caused by a tiny, microscopic species if mite. Skin mites are common, actually, everyone carries a certain amount of skin mites from their bedding, and most are harmless. Scabies, however, causes severe itching. People all over the world and of all age groups and genders can pick up scabies. Scabies are not a sign of an unclean environment, they are contracted through touch from other people. Scabies enter the skin and dig underneath the dermis to lay their eggs. This creates a thin, pencil like mark on the skin and causes itching. It takes the eggs 21 days to reach maturity, and the intense itching is caused by an allergic reaction to the eggs that are developing under the skin.
On a baby, scabies may resemble a more pimple like mark, spread especially over the torso and the top of the legs. Young children tend to develop scabies on the head, neck, soles of the feet, hands, shoulders, and palm. Older children and adults are often affected throughout the hands, wrists, genitals, shoulders, and abdomen. There is no determining factor why scabies develops differently over the body of a child or baby as they do an adult’s body.
SCABIES SYMPTOMSSymptoms of scabies include itching that typically worsens as night, pencil think marks on the skin from the burrowing of the mite, rashes from the allergic reaction to the eggs which have been laid, and marks on the skin caused by scratching to relieve the constant itch. Scabies can be painful, in the sense of itching so badly that the skin becomes over sensitive and there is a heightened sense of pain that accompanies the itch. This is more common in young children or people with touch sensitivities.
SCABIES RISK FACTORThere are no determining risk factors for contracting scabies. Human to human contact can pass scabies from one person to another, as can sharing clothing or bedding. It is not uncommon for all the members of one family to contract scabies at the same time. When all the members of one family get scabies it can be difficult to rid the entire household of the mite, as one can re-contract scabies from a family member even if they are getting over their scabies infestation.
Image: Skin disease
SCABIES DIAGNOSISThe diagnosis of scabies is relatively easy. A physical examination can reveal the tell tale characteristics of scabies, and a skin scraping from a burrow can reveal the presence of the actual mite, although in most cases the skin scraping isn’t necessary.
Most cases of scabies can be cured with a medicated cream. The cream is applied to the skin which kills the mite as well as the egg. In cases that are particularly difficult, or in cases where entire families are infested, oral medication may be given to kill the eggs and the mites faster in conjunction with medicated creams.
SCABIES COMPLICATIONSMost of the time, scabies can be cleared up without any long term complications. However, especially in children who find it very difficult not to scratch an intense itch, a secondary skin infection known as impetigo may occur. Impetigo is not that difficult to clear up, but this infection as well can be itchy to the point of painful. In rare cases, staff infection may occur.
SCABIES TREATMENTThe intense itching may persist even after treatment has begun. It is important to follow the physician’s advice and use the medication exactly as it has been prescribed to clear up the infection as well as the itching. Oatmeal baths, calamine lotions, and oral antihistamines can also help relieve the itching. Do not use alcohol on the skin to attempt to clear up the itch. This will only irritate the skin further.
Coping with scabies is difficult, especially for children. Play time away from other children and fun but isolated activities can often help children relax and deal with the chronic need to scratch. Adults as well need to treat themselves to a little extra treat in order to cope with the chronic discomfort. People infested with scabies should avoid contact with others until a physician approves the return to work or school.