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Scabies: Symptoms, Treatment, Natural Remedies and Prevention
What is Scabies
Scabies is an allergic reaction on the skin caused by the microscopic mite called Sarcoptes Scabiei. The scabies mites are invisible to the human eye and that is why they are so easy to pass to the other people. It all begins when the female scabies start their infestation by eating into the skin to lay eggs. They make little tunnels under the top layer of the skin as they eat their way through and then stay in the burrows for the rest of their live cycle.
The most shocking fact about the female scabies is that they can lay eggs as soon as they get under the human skin and they will continue laying eggs more than once a day. One more bad news is that they continue doing so for about 2 months and the new scabies hatch from the eggs in as little as 3-4 days. This doesn't end there. The young scabies mites tunnel back onto the surface of the skin and settle comfortably around the hair follicles. In as little as 4 days the "newborns" are ready to mate. The females will look for the male and then start digging the tunnel in the human skin to lay more eggs.
As you can imagine, if left untreated, this mite invasion will become a disaster because the scabies mite population multiplies in the matter of few days. People who are infected with scabies may show symptoms in as little as 1-4 days if they suffered from scabies before. Those who are getting it for the first time, may take up to 6 weeks to show any symptoms.
Scabies mites live under skin for only two months and cannot withstand high temperatures of over 120°F.
The first and most unpleasant symptom of scabies is intense itch all over the infected areas. This type of itch is an allergic reaction to the mites and the debris they leave behind. The itching tends to be more severe during the night time and very soon a pimple-like rash will develop. The scabies borrows will be slightly raised and uneven. They can be grayish-colored or skin-colored. The rash may soon become infected.
The scabies can spread all over the body or stay localized in few areas. The most common places for the scabies mites to thrive are between the fingers, around the wrists, on the elbows, armpits, shoulder blades, neck, breasts, around the waist, all over genital areas, knees and the soles of the feet. Young children are mostly likely to get the scabies on their neck, scalp or soles. The most comfortable place for the mites to reside and breed is anywhere in the folds of the skin.
How Do You Get Scabies
Scabies is very easy to get if you come in direct and prolonged contact with the infected person. Scabies in adults may be spread by the people living in the same household or acquired from sexual partners. Children may get infected by scabies in their household or other places like daycare or school. Scabies is spread by sharing the clothing items, bedding, towels, blankets, by sitting on the chair where the infected person was sitting. There are really many ways to get scabies as soon as one person gets infected.
Types of Scabies
There are two main types of scabies: regular or mild scabies and crusted or Norwegian scabies. The mild scabies is easily treated with the prescription creams or simple natural remedies and mostly occurs in healthy people or people who had scabies before.
Crusted or Norwegian scabies is a more severe form of scabies and it mostly occurs in people with compromised immune system like elderly people or those who have serious health issues. The person with crusted scabies will have a bunch of thick crusty bumps on their skin containing large number of scabies mites under them. These people are highly contagious since they carry a large mite population under their skin and can spread the mites very quickly to the other people. Crusted scabies are mostly found in nursing homes, prisons and other highly populated public areas.
Patients with crusted scabies require more aggressive and prolonged treatment because they don't sometimes respond to the standard treatment.
How to Treat and Prevent Scabies
Treating scabies is not that easy since very often people wouldn't show any symptoms for few weeks. It's very important to understand that, although only one person in the household can have obvious signs of scabies, all other members of the household need to be treated at the same time with no exceptions.
Prescription drugs given to the patients infected with scabies are called scabicides. They work by killing the mites and their eggs at the same time to prevent the infestation from spreading.
The standard treatment of scabies includes prescription topical creams and lotions such as Crotamiton, Permethrin Cream, Lindane Lotion, Ivermectin and Benzyl Benzoate. In the case of crusted scabies it may be necessary to repeat the course of treatment. In some cases the oral antibiotics are prescribed along with the scabicides because some patients develop skin infection.
Since scabies is accompanied by intense itch all over the infested areas, oral antihistamines such as Benadryl or generic versions can be taken.
The most important part of scabies treatment is disinfecting all of the shared and personal items in the household. All of the bedding and towels, clothing and anything that have possibly came into contact with the infected person, needs to be washed in hot water and dried in the dryer. You should dry-clean the items that can't be washed. Pretty much the whole house needs to be disinfected to make sure all the scabies mites and their eggs are killed.
The best way to prevent scabies is to avoid the contact with someone who has scabies. In some cases it's not possible because the parent may need to take care of the infected child. In this case you should follow the standard treatment for all members in the household.
Natural and Home Remedies for Scabies
A lot of times scabies mites maybe hard to kill with the standard medicated treatments and repeated treatments wouldn't work.
Neem oil is a number one recommended natural treatment for scabies. It's due to the fact that neem oil is the only known oil that will kill the scabies mites and their eggs. Neem oil has been used for thousands of years to treat lots of skin infections and disorders and it works perfectly for killing the pests on the skin. When applied to skin, neem oil relives the itch and irritation, and numbs the pain, reduces the inflammation of the skin as well as redness.
Neem oil can be applied by wetting the piece of cloth and leaving it on the infected skin for 15-20 minutes. You may repeat the application twice a day until the issue is resolved. You may also rub the neem oil into the infected skin for up to 2 times a day if the infection has spread all over the body.
Tea Tree oil is also a very powerful natural remedy when it comes to treating scabies. Tea tree oil has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and is very helpful when it comes to curing any skin disorders. Tea tree oil should be always diluted before it's applied to skin.
For the best results, a tea spoon of Tea tree oil can be added to the bath. The tea tree oil can be also equally diluted with olive oil and applied twice a day to the infected areas.
Cold water will provide moisture to the irritated skin. Soaking the infected areas in cold water for about 20 minutes 3 times a day will also aid with reducing the inflammation.
Sulfur ointment is one of the oldest and most inexpensive ways of treating scabies. The sulfur ointment can be applied to the entire body before going to bed and washed off in the morning. The treatment may be repeated for 3-4 days until the issue is resolved. The skin should be clean before applying the sulfur ointment treatment. For the best results, you may also use sulfur soap.
How Long Have Scabies Been Around
Archeological excavations in Egypt suggest that scabies has been around for at least 2500 years. The ancient Roman Physician Celcus is responsible for giving the scabies its name. This irritating disease was named "scabere" in Latin which stands for "itch". In ancient times, scabies was always associated with poverty due to the lack of good hygiene in the less lucky parts of the population.
Another physician Giovan Bonomo was the first one to get to the bottom of what scabies was. He was able to observe the tiny microscopic scabies mites and described them as "6-legged monsters". He was also able to accurately describe the process of scabies mite reproduction under the skin and he was pretty much the first physician in the world to correctly document everything about scabies and offer effective treatments. He suggest that all linens and clothing items of the infected people had to be washed to be able to get rid of scabies. He was also the first physician to find the right cure for scabies used up to this day - sulfur.