Scabies: How to Treat and Survive the Seven-Year Itch

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Scabies, also known colloquially as the “seven year itch,” refers to a highly contagious skin infection caused by Sarcoptes scabiei, a specie of mites. Sarcoptes scabiei is a small parasite that burrows into the host’s skin, causing intense itching and triggering an allergic response. This type of mite could infect both humans and animals alike. In animals, the mites that cause mange is different but related specie.

Causes of Scabies

The mites that cause this condition could be passed from one person to another. Therefore, it’s spread through skin contact. Usually, symptoms of scabies will manifest on the affected area. But as the condition progresses, it will start spreading to other parts of the body as well. During sexual intercourse, scabies could cause skin lesions on the groin area, the penis, and vagina. However, scabies is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease; it’s just contagious.

Sleeping on the same bed as well as sharing clothes with a person afflicted with scabies will also cause infestation. But this isn’t the majority of the transmission of scabies. When mites are away from human skin, they will only live for two to three days. Human-to-animal transmission of scabies is unlikely.

Signs and Symptoms of Scabies

One of the major tell-tale signs of scabies is itchy lesions on the skin. Bites from the mites will look like common insect bites. The bites are concentrated on the knees or underarm, elbows, or wrists. Continuous scratching will lead to sores.

Upon close inspection of the skin, you will find something burrowed underneath, indicating that the mites are on the move under your skin. Scabies also affect the fingers, toes, buttocks, waist, and any crevices of the body. Scaly skin and skin rashes will also develop on the affected area.

How Do You Treat Scabies?

Scabies should be treated with medication. If you suspect that you have scabies, it’s best to have yourself checked for a diagnosis. In some cases, patients do not suspect scabies because the symptom that manifest is rashes, rather than itching. Still, it’s important to get medical help right away so you don’t spread the infestation to your loved ones. In addition, cut all your nails to remove mite eggs. These mites usually lay eggs underneath the nails to protect them from the elements.

If you have open sores and you cannot stop yourself from scratching, take anti-histamine medications. This will ease the itchiness so you don’t aggravate the condition of your skin.

Preventing Further Infestation

Apart from getting the right medication to treat scabies, remove all beddings, clothes, and any other articles of clothing you used in the last three days and have it cleaned. Use hot water when cleaning your beddings and clothing to kill all mites. For clothing and items that are not machine washable, seal them all in a plastic container for at least a week. Mites that cause scabies could survive away from human skin for several days. By inhibiting them from escaping, you will kill the little buggers.

Vacuum all carpets and rugs or wash them with hot water as well. You can use tea tree oil, borax, Lysol, hydrogen peroxide, and lemon/olive oil to clean your beddings and carpets.