Everyone gets a little rash from time to time. It could be due to dry skin, winter weather, or an allergy to a soap or cleansing product. But if your rash is causing you to itch intensely and is accompanied by tiny, red marks all over your hands, elbows, or thighs, you could be suffering from more than just a rash. Scabies is a common skin infection that often produces symptoms similar to that of a normal rash. Caused by microscopic mites that burrow beneath the surface of the skin, scabies symptoms can be very uncomfortable and you can end up with a severe infection if it isn’t treated properly. Luckily, effective scabies treatment is available.
What is Scabies?
Scabies is a common skin infection caused by the mite, Sarcoptes Scabei. These mites burrow beneath the surface of your skin, causing intense itching and the appearance of a red rash. Scabies mites are incredibly tiny – they are only about 0.4 mm long – and cannot be seen by the naked eye. Drawn to warm, moist areas of the body, the female scabies mite burrows beneath the skin and lays her eggs, which eventually hatch, perpetuating the scabies infection.
Are You Itchy?: How You Get Scabies
Scabies is a relatively easy skin infection to contract. The microscopic mites can be passed along to your body when you have prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. This means that you can easily get scabies from your sexual partner, roommates, or family members. And scabies is particularly rampant among those who live in close quarters with other people. This is why hospitals, schools, and dormitories are often sites for scabies outbreaks.
A quick hug or handshake with a contaminated person is usually not enough to cause a scabies infection. However, there is a chance that you can contract scabies by using contaminated items, such as bedding, towels, or clothing. Additionally, your dog or cat cannot pass scabies along to you. This is because the mite that is responsible for human scabies is actually different from those that cause canine scabies and scabies in cats.
Who’s At Risk for Scabies?
Scabies is actually a very common infection, and is on the rise in the United States. Anyone can become infected with scabies at any time. However, there are certain factors that will increase your risk of infection. These factors include:
- coming into close contact with an infected person
- living in close quarters with other people
- being a young child or an elderly person
What are the Symptoms of Scabies?
Scabies symptoms usually take at least a month to appear from the time that you have been infected. However, those who have already experienced an infection, tend to suffer from scabies symptoms much sooner, typically within a day or so. Signs of scabies include:
- severe itching, particularly overnight
- red burrow marks where the mites have crawled beneath the skin (particularly on the backs of the hands, inner thighs, and elbows)
- blisters that crust and ooze
Complications of Scabies If you do not receive prompt scabies treatment, it is possible to develop associated health problems. The most common complication of scabies is a secondary skin infection, caused by persistent scratching of the skin. These skin infections are often referred to as impetigo. Some people suffer from a more severe form of scabies, known as Crusted or Norwegian Scabies. This form of scabies occurs when thousands to millions of mites infect the body, producing a thick, scaly covering over the body.
Treating scabies is a relatively straightforward process. Your health care provider can offer you a medicated lotion that will help to kill the scabies, and prevent them for laying more eggs. This lotion should be applied to a clean body, from the neck down to the toes. It is important to cover all areas of the body, particularly skin folds surrounding the elbows, knees, hands, and feet. This lotion should be left on overnight and then washed off. You may need to repeat this treatment again with seven to ten days. Generally, the scabies rash should begin to disappear within a few days, however, itching may continue for up to three weeks.