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Scabies

What is scabies?

Scabies (Sarcoptes scabiei) is a very itchy rash caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin.

How do I get scabies?

The mites feed using their mouths and front legs to burrow into the outer layer of skin (epidermis), where they lay eggs. After three to four days, the baby mites (larvae) hatch and move to the surface of the skin, where they mature into adults.

In developed countries, scabies outbreaks can sometimes occur in places where there are lots of people, such as schools, nurseries and care homes. You get scabies by skin-to-skin contact, such as shaking hands, dancing, sharing clothes, bedding or towels and sexual contact with an infected person.

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Do I have scabies?

The rash looks like curvy white threads, tiny red bumps, scratches or tiny blisters. It’s extremely itchy, especially at night. Scabies can be confused with eczema. It’s usually very difficult to see the mites.

The rash appears in both men and women between the fingers and around wrists and elbows. The scabies rash can also be found in the armpits, under the breasts, along the belt line and navel, on the inner thighs, the buttocks and genitals.

How do you treat scabies?

Scabies is treated with a special lotion that you can buy at any pharmacy without a prescription. You should speak to the pharmacist so he or she can help you decide which lotion is best for you. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to a doctor or pharmacist before starting any treatment. Your sexual partner(s) or anyone who has shared your bed, towels or clothing should be treated at the same time.

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While you’re being treated for Scabies, you should:

  • Wash your clothing, bedding and towels in hot water and then place them in the dryer on the hottest cycle for 20 minutes.
  • Dry-clean anything that can’t be washed, or pack them loosely in a sealed plastic bag for 5-7 days.
  • Itching might last for a few weeks after treatment, but it will go away in time. There is a chance you may need a second treatment.

How do prevent scabies?

The myth that scabies only happens to people who are dirty or don’t keep their house very clean is just that, a myth. Scabies can affect anyone.