Scabies (scabies) is a contagious skin condition caused by the scabies mite. This mite is transmitted through touch, sexual contact, sharing the same bedding or wearing contaminated clothing. The scabies mite then digs small holes in your skin and lays eggs in them. These hatch after three days. The scabies mite is therefore able to multiply very quickly. Scabies is mainly itchy, which makes it difficult to distinguish it from other skin conditions, like eczema. Characteristic of scabies is that it’s mainly between the toes and fingers. It can also occur on the wrists, feet, ankles, nipples, genitals and in the armpits and groin. Many people who get scabies are embarrassed of it. That’s because it’s often associated with an unhygienic lifestyle. This can increase the chance of scabies, but it doesn't necessarily need to be the cause. Anyone can get it and that’s why it’s important for you to be open about it with those around you. This will prevent you from infecting others.
Scabies means you may suffer from:
- An itch. This will be worse at night.
- Red bumps or spots on the skin.
- Small fissures in the skin.
- Blisters on the skin.
- Infection as a result of scratching.
You can treat scabies with permethrin cream. This is available from the chemist or pharmacy. You use this as follows:
- Apply the cream all over your body. Also apply it to the scalp for children under the age of two. Even if there’s hair on the scalp.
- Rinse your body thoroughly after 8 to 12 hours.
- Use a clean towel when drying. Throw this towel in the wash after use.
- Wash everything you use or have worn at 60°C. Also wash your family members’ clothes and sheets.
- Clothes which can’t be washed at 60 °C should be placed in a closed plastic bag. You can open this again after three days and wash the clothes at the right temperature.
- Thoroughly air your bedding, mattresses and pillows. Do this for 3 days.
Anyone who’s had skin contact with you, or who lives with you, will also need to follow this advice. You must repeat this yourself after 14 days. Those who didn’t have scabies symptoms won’t need to do the treatment again.
The scabies will usually go away after this. You may still suffer from itching, but this will also disappear after 14 days. The wounds and fissures in your skin have to heal and this will take approximately 6 weeks.
Scabies is treatable and harmless. However, in some situations it may be wise to contact your GP:
- You have treated the scabies correctly and the itching hasn’t gone away after four weeks.
- You have treated the scabies correctly and the itching has worsened after two weeks.
- Spots reappear on your skin again after the treatment.
- You’re pregnant and suspect you have scabies. Or someone else close to you has it. You will then be given another means to treat it.
- You are very itchy. Your GP will be able to prescribe a reliever.
- You’re allergic to permethrin cream. Your GP will then be able to prescribe Ivermectin in pill form.
- You’re not sure whether you have scabies.