What is Scabies?
Scabies is a highly contagious skin infection. It is caused by the infestation of the itch mite - Sarcoptes scabiei.
A scabies mite has 8 legs and comes from the same family as ticks and spiders. It is not directly visible and can be seen only under a microscope.
Scabies infests both humans and animals but animal scabies cannot survive on the human body and therefore die. Human scabies can’t survive without a host for more than 3 days but, if finds a host, can live for a month.
The female mite burrows under the upper layer of skin and lays its eggs. These eggs grow into larvae and then adult mites, thus the scabies mites find a permanent home under the skin of the human body and can stay for months and sometimes even years. It is also called the ‘seven year itch’
Scabies can infest anyone – elderly, children, adults. Causes of scabies are casual contact with an infected person or close contact with the infected person’s skin during sexual intercourse.
Crowded places are the breeding grounds for scabies – hospitals, child care centers, prisons, dormitories, camps – where people are often in close contact with each other. Scabies mites move from skin to skin.
If a person is infested for the first time, symptoms of scabies might not appear for 4-6 weeks even after infestation but, he or she is the carrier and infects others during this time period.
The most common scabies symptoms are:
- Intense itching especially at night.
- Sometimes S-shaped tunnels under the skin are visible which have about 10-15 mites and eggs.
- The movement of mites under the skin causes itching. Scabies are usually found in the crevices or the folds of the body parts like – web of the toes, elbows, armpit, wrists, waist area – belt line, buttocks, groin area of men and under breast of females.
- Scratching the
itch causes rash and excessive itching can cause sores which are
infected by bacteria. Scabies rash is similar to pimples rash, tiny
bites or knots under the skin.
The severe form of scabies is crusted scabies which is most often found in individuals with weak immune system like elderly, children or disabled. They have thick crusts of skin which contain a large number of mites and eggs under the skin. In such case the characteristics of scabies symptoms like rash or itch might not appear at all.
Scabies Home Remedies
It’s a common belief that one needs to get rid of scabies only by medical prescription but you can also try home remedies for scabies. Below are a few natural scabies treatments that don’t carry any side effect.
- Aggressive hygiene: When you have discovered that you have scabies, you need to follow a very strict hygiene regime. This is the foremost natural cure for scabies. Wash and clean everything that use on a daily basis. Your clothing, bed sheets, pillow - anything you use during the day. Mites can’t survive in hot water so, wash all your washable belongings in hot water and things that can’t be washed should be stored away from human contact for a week (since mites can’t survive without a host for more than 3 days).
Now, you need to bathe yourself with hot water
thrice a day. Use a sulfur based shampoo. It is easily available and you
don’t need a prescription to get this.
- Don’t Scratch: It is best not to scratch, since scratching can lead to sores and susceptibility to further spread of mites.
Control the itch by using calamine lotion on the affected area. This will help in scabies prevention.
- Natural oils: Tea tree oil is known to be one of the most effective scabies home remedies. It not only kills the scabies mites but also helps in relieving the itch.
Apply it before sleeping in the night or
during the day when mite bites are unbearable. Tea tree oil might make
your skin dry but it can be compensated by the use of a good
moisturizer. Do not apply tea tree oil directly to the skin, mix it with
a carrier such as olive oil.
Another oil is Mustard oil that helps in treating scabies. Apply a generous amount of oil on the affected area. You can do a spot test, since it might irritate the skin.
Orange oil, because of its citrus qualities, is also helpful an effective treatment for scabies.
- Homemade Neem paste: Take some dried neem leaves and a little turmeric. Mix a small amount of mustard oil into this. Apply this paste on the affected area and leave for a couple of hours. The antiseptic qualities of turmeric and neem will help in scabies natural treatment.
Since scabies is a highly contagious infection and one might not have the symptoms for a long time, all close contacts, family members and partners should be treated simultaneously to get rid of scabies completely.
By Anuradha Gakhar
Other pages on remedies for skin in connection with this page on scabies symptoms
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