Scabies is a contagious (catching) disorder of the skin caused by very small, wingless insects or mites. The female insect burrows into the skin where she lays one to three eggs daily. A very small, hard to see, zigzag blister marks the trail of the insect as she lays her eggs. Other more obvious symptoms are an intense itching (especially at night) and a red rash that can occur at the area that has been scratched. The most common locations for scabies are on the sides of fingers, between the fingers, on the back of the hands, on the wrists, heels, elbows, armpits, inner thighs and around the waist (belt line). If untreated, the female will continue to lay eggs for about five weeks. The eggs hatch and the new mites begin the cycle again. The mites themselves are too small to be seen without magnification.
Scabies is spread by personal contact or by close contact with infected articles such as clothing, bedding or towels. It is usually found where people are crowded together or have frequent contact, and is most common among school children, families, roommates, and sexual partners. Scabies can be spread by the insect itself or by the egg. Prompt action is required to rid a person of the insects and eggs.
If it is determined that scabies is present in your family the doctor will prescribe a medicated lotion for all those in your family who have scabies. The prescribed lotion will kill both the mites and the eggs. It should be used only under the directions of your doctor and only on infected persons. Infants and pregnant women may be treated with a different medication than other family members. If you are or think you may be pregnant, please let the doctor know when you call.
- Examine all other family members carefully for the presence of scabies.
- Combs, brushes, barrettes and anything with which your child has had contact should be soaked in hot water for at least 15 minutes. To avoid reinfestation, all clothing, towels and bedding should be thoroughly laundered once all those with scabies begin their treatment. Use hot water & disinfectant, your hot water heater should be set to 120 deg. for safety.
- Periodically check your child for symptoms which may indicate reinfection. Expect the rash to clear in about two weeks.
- Itching may take up to 4 weeks to resolve after treatment. New burrows, however, may indicate ongoing infection. Expect the rash to clear in about two weeks.
Prevention Regularly change and wash clothing. When laundering clothing and bedding, use hot water. Children should not share clothing or other personal articles, such as hair brushes, combs or towels, with one another. When an outbreak of scabies is reported be alert for symptoms in member of your family. If your child has scabies, please notify the school authorities so the school will be alerted to check for any outbreak.
The above measures are suggested to help prevent reinfestation. However, the medicated lotion treatment for scabies does not provide long term protection and reinfestation is always possible.