Scabies is commonly seen skin lesions across globe and across all age groups. It leads to severe itching. It can happen across all socio economic status; but mostly seen in people living in crowded area. It spreads by skin to skin contact. Treatment has to be given simultaneously to all the family members to eliminate this disease.
What is it?
Scabies is caused due to tiny mites called Sarcoptes Scabiei. These mites burrow into the skin and lay eggs there.
Symptoms/signs: Sever itching (which can be worse at night), red rashes, sometimes wavy raised red lines can be seen where mites might have burrowed. Scratching of skin due to itching can lead to superimposed bacterial infection (eg Impetigo).
Which body part is involved: It affects hands and feet most commonly (especially the web between fingers), genitals etc. In kids even scalp, palms and soles can be involved. Practically speaking any body part can be involved.
How long will it take for symptoms to develop? It can take 4- 6 weeks after infection for symptoms to develop; but in people who have had this disease previously, it can develop within few days too.
Cause: It is contagious; spread from one to another via skin contact of infected person. It is commonly seen in crowded settings like in families, child care centers, schools, hostels etc.
Treatment: Take opinion of Dermatologist (in kids child specialist can also help). Follow the instructions properly to avoid recurrence of illness.
- Cream or Lotions need to be applied to skin all over body below the neck (in kids it can be applied even on head and face as per the instructions).
- Cream need to be left over skin overnight (8-12 hours); after that it can be washed off.
- After applying the cream, don’t wash your own hands — scabies mites love the area between the fingers!
- Wash all the cloths, bed sheets etc with warm water and soap (to kill all the mites)
- Sometimes oral medicines might be prescribed by your skin specialist.
- Scabies is very contagious and re infection in same person or other family member can occur; so it is very important for all the family members to take treatment simultaneously on the same date.
- Anti allergic medicines to prevent itching will also be given and sometimes antibiotics might be given to treat bacterial infection, if any.
- If the treatment is effective, there should be no new rashes or burrows after 24 to 48 hours.
Medicines which can be given as per need by doctor:
Anti scabies: 5% permethrin cream (most common), 1% Lindane lotion, 25% benzyl benzoate lotion etc.
Antihistamine: to control itching
Antibiotics: to clear the bacterial infection
Steroid based cream: to ease the redness, swelling and itch; if needed.
Preventions: Avoid direct physical contact with person infected with scabies. Wash cloths, sheets and towels with warm water and soap if any of the family member or close person has been recently treated for scabies. Vaccum clean the home if needed. Treatment should be given to all family members to prevent the spread of infection.
We can stop scabies if we follow regular hygienic measures and get treated on time.
Dr Rahul Varma