Scabies is an infestation of a human skin mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei. They are microscopic mites that can burrow into the top layer of skin. A normal scabies infestation only involves 10 – 15 mites. Scabies is found all around the world and can infect anyone.
In people who have never had scabies before, symptoms of an infestation can take up to 4 – 6 weeks to present. If you have had scabies before, symptoms may show after just 1 – 4 days. It is important to remember that during the incubation period, even though you do not have any symptoms, you are still infectious and can pass scabies on to others.
The itching associated with scabies is caused by the toxins released by the scabies mites, not the mites themselves. Therefore the itching can continue for over a week after the mites are dead.
Scabies treatment is normally one-off but it can take a number of weeks for the itching to subside. Even after the mites are dead, itching can persist for a number of weeks due to the leftover toxins in your skin. During this time you can use an anti-itching cream like Eurax to soothe the area. If the itching lasts for more than 2 – 4 weeks re-treatment may be necessary.
Whether you treat your family for scabies as well as yourself will depend on a number of factors, however in most cases it is wise to treat the whole household for scabies at the same time to prevent reinfection.
No, scabies mites solely infect humans. There is an animal equivalent known as ‘mange’. It is possible for a ‘mange’ mite to burrow into human skin on contact with an infected animal, however they cannot reproduce in humans and will die after a few days.
To remove scabies mites from clothes, bedding and towels they should be put in a hot wash. This will kill the scabies mites. Scabies mites naturally die after 2 – 3 days of not being on human skin.
Scabies can be caught from someone following prolonged physical contact. Simply shaking hands or brushing against someone presents a low risk of catching scabies. However, having sex with someone with scabies poses a high risk of transmission and it is likely that person will require treatment.
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