Scabies (sarcoptes scabiei hominis)

What is scabies?

Scabies is a skin condition caused by tiny parasitic mites that feed on human blood below the top layer of the skin. The females digs burrows and lay eggs under the skin, creating scabs. Skin rashes and itching are common symptoms caused by these mites, which are not visible to the naked eye.

How do you get scabies?

Patients are asymptomatic but contagious during the one-month incubation period, when the parasites begin to multiply.

Scabies can be transmitted by:

  • Intimate or sexual contact with an infected person;
  • Skin-to-skin contact;
  • Contact with contaminated clothing or bedding.

What are the symptoms of scabies?

  • Itching and skin irritation, especially at night or after a hot bath.
  • Tunnels just below the surface of the skin.
  • The areas most affected are the hands, wrists, upper thighs, ankles, buttocks, between the fingers, inside the elbows, and around the genital organs.

What are the possible complications of scabies?

The only complications of scabies are due to excessive scratching, which may rub the skin raw or trigger a secondary infection in the affected area(s).

How is scabies diagnosed?

Scabies can be detected by a slightly raised, greyish-white thread on the skin or tunnels just below the skin’s surface. In case of doubt, a simple skin test can confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for scabies?

  • Apply medication (lotion, cream, shampoo) on the affected areas for 7 to 10 days, or as instructed.
  • Wash clothing and bedding in hot water. (Don’t forget gloves, socks, slippers, shirt sleeves and collars, comforters, sheets, etc.), Articles that cannot be washed should be placed in a sealed plastic bag for a week.)
  • Vacuum mattresses, furniture and car seats.
  • Apply insecticide on furniture. Using an anti-parasitic textile spray and leaving it on for 48 hours is an effective method of disinfestation of garments and bedding.

If there is an allergic reaction, itching may last for several days or even weeks, even with treatment.

How can scabies be prevented?

  • Infected individuals should avoid sexual and intimate physical contact for the duration of treatment, so as not to contaminate their partners.
  • Do not share clothing (especially underwear) and towels.
  • Condoms do not offer any protection against these parasites.
  • Due to possible transmission by simple contact, all members of a family (as well as people who attend the same daycare, class, shelter, group home, etc.) should be treated at the same time.
  • Inform your sexual partners.

What are the risks for HIV-positive people?

Patients with HIV may develop “Norwegian scabies,” a rare form of scabies. The lesions of this distinctive form of scabies are more severe and extensive.

Additional Information

A follow-up visit may be useful three (3) weeks after treatment to determine the effectiveness of the treatment and to ensure that no re-infection has occurred.

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