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Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei.  They burrow under the skin and lay eggs. Unfortunately, it can take up to 21 days after being infected to actually feel the symptoms of a scabies infestation.  This is because the mite actually lays the eggs under the skin, but we don’t feel the itching until the eggs actually hatch.

Although sometimes considered a skin disorder that affects people who are not clean, it’s important to note that scabies can infect anybody – clean or not.

What to look for

Because the scabies mite is extremely small, you won’t actually be able to see the mite itself on or under the skin. You must look for the telltale signs instead.

During the first 21 days, the scabies appears as what’s commonly described as a “pencil hole” in the skin.  It’s a tiny burrow in the skin with a dark end and can be commonly found in the folds of the skin.  After the 21 days when the eggs hatch, the newly hatched mites grow up on the skin, and then the females make their own burrows and lay their own eggs.  Unless treated vigorously using an integrated treatment plan, this cycle can go on for years.

Getting rid of scabies

Scabies is highly contagious.  It can spread through prolonged personal contact or by sharing hats, sheets or clothing or other personal items.  If you have scabies, you should do the following:

1) See a doctor. He can prescribe topical ointments that will eventually kill all the mites living on your skin.  Over the counter treatments are not effective.

2) Contact everyone with whom you’ve had contact recently. This includes all sexual partners.  Encourage them to see their doctor to start treatment right away.

Along with a person who has scabies, if have come into close contact with someone who does, you should also take these measures:

1) Wash all your clothes, your bedclothes, your towels and other personal items. Use the hottest water available and use the hottest dryer setting possible.  This may be repeated several times.

2) If you have items that cannot be washed, you can set the item aside and make sure not to have any contact with it for 72 hours. Mites die in three days without human contact.

3) Vacuum your entire house. Make sure to get your rugs, your couch cushions, and your mattress.  If you have a vacuum bag, throw it away right away.  If not, wash the vacuum container with hot soapy water.

Luckily, scabies cannot be transmitted to pets.

14 Oct

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