What is scabies?
Scabies is not just an ordinary form of infection, but an infestation of Sarcoptes scabies. Sarcoptes scabies is tiny mites which infest the outer layers of human skin. The skin then reacts adversely to the invasion of these mites. The infestation of mites is followed by burrowing of the mites. Moreover, the mites lay eggs inside the skin. As a consequence, the infestation leads to an angry rash and unyielding itching. It takes about four to six weeks for the skin to react to scabies if a person is infected with scabies for the first time.
Common symptoms which are associated with scabies include:
- Persistent itching, especially during the night
- Red skin rash
- Blisters or scales
- Sores because of persistent scratching
- In the early stages of scabies, the rash can be mistaken for other skin conditions because of its resemblance with the conditions. A demarcating point which sets scabies apart is the relentless itch. Itching is most severe in the elderly and children.
Scabies is also referred to as human itch mites. The critters infest the upper layer of your skin and lay eggs there. After the eggs hatch, the mites migrate to the surface of your skin, from there it spreads to other parts of your body. Scabies are contagious and can also spread to other people. If the scabies is more severe then, they are called “Norwegian crusted scabies” or “crusted scabies”. Scabies is more severe in people who have compromised immune systems. The condition gets its name from the thick crusts of the skin that form from a large number of mites and eggs of scabies. Scabies has the tendency to live on the human body for 1 to 2 months. In addition, the mites can live on furniture and on bedding for 2-3 days.
How do you get scabies?
Scabies spreads from one infected person to another and is very contagious. Scabies spreads through prolonged, direct and close physical contact. Frequent sites for scabies include childcare centers, prisons, health care facilities and nursing homes. Adults who are healthy most often get scabies through sexual contact with infected person. Your pets, however, can’t give you scabies.
What are the symptoms of scabies?
The first sign of scabies is that you will feel intense itching, especially at night time followed by the appearance of a pimple-like rash. The symptoms are either limited to certain areas, for instance, in the webbing between your fingers, butt, genitals, elbows and your wrist or these symptoms can be noticed all over your body. Children infected with rabies might experience rash or itching on their palms, neck, face, head or the soles of their feet. Burrows might also become noticeable on your skin. Burrows are flesh-colored or grayish-white, tiny and raised bumps on the lines of your body. These are caused when the mites dig their way into your skin. However, if your scabies is crusted scabies then you might not have symptoms, rash or itching which scabies is known for. What’s more, if you have been infected with rabies before, just after a few days of being exposed to the mites – you might develop the symptoms and these symptoms may last for up to 6 weeks. Even if you do not show signs of the infection yourself, you can still spread the mites to others.
How can scabies be diagnosed?
Your doctor will be able to tell you if you have scabies by checking the burrows or rash on your body. The doctor might even scrape your skin to try and remove one of the mites from its burrow. He can also pull out the parasite from its burrow using a thin needle.
How to get rid of scabies?
There are some serious side effects associated with the many traditional treatments for scabies. Some people can develop resistance to these treatments and do not respond to them. Therefore, in such an instance, you may want to use traditional remedies for the treatment of scabies. There is no remedy to get rid of scabies in 24 hours, however, these remedies can be used to effectively get rid of scabies over the course of a few weeks.
Please check with your doctor before using any of these natural home remedies if you have any medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Bleach may effectively kill the mites. However, bleach itself is a harsh chemical and should be treated with great care. Bleach should always be diluted and then used. It can cause damage to a person’s lungs, eyes and skin. Theoretically, bleach should only be used as a cleaning agent and should not come in contact with the skin itself.
2. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is an effective essential oil for topical treatment of scabies. In some studies, it is shown to be an effective and promising treatment for scabies. However, there is still room for additional studies. Tea tree oil is a promising option for scabies, especially in cases that do not improve using typical treatment options for scabies. Tea tree oil has been effective in treating scabies in people and in lab tests. However, there is a need for more large scale, randomized control trials.
Tea tree oil heals the rash on the skin and alleviates the itching, in addition to other treatments. The tea tree oil is not effective on the eggs buried deeper in the skin. You can add tea tree oil in a squirt bottle and spray it on your bedding.
It is possible for you to be allergic to tea tree oil. If you develop an allergic reaction to the oil, immediately discontinue its use.
3. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is well-known for its soothing effects on sunburn and many other skin problems. Aloe vera has minimal side effects and is the safest natural product to use. A study has shown that aloe vera is effective for the treatment of scabies. In fact, it has been found to be as effective as the prescription drug benzyl benzoate. There were no side effects noted. However, more research is needed to test the effectiveness of aloe vera for the treatment of scabies. The study was small and only 16 people were tested with aloe vera, therefore, larger sample sizes are needed.
If you are using aloe vera gel to treat your scabies, then make sure that you are buying pure aloe vera gel which has no additives in it.
A useful alternative treatment for scabies is neem creams, soaps, and oil. Neem has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It has active components which have shown to kill scabies in laboratory tests.
A study found that using the extract of neem in shampoo successfully cured scabies in infested dogs. Most of the ten dogs involved in the study showed improvement after seven days of using the shampoo. Eight of the dogs were totally cured after using the shampoo and two had only a few mites left. However, there is a need for further studies, using larger sample sizes of humans to test the effectiveness of neem as a treatment for scabies.
Neem is an oil that can easily be found in creams and ointments which are available online.
5. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper can be used for relieving itching and pain from scabies.
It is also believed that the cayenne pepper can kill the scabies mite. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claim. When cayenne is applied topically, the capsaicin found in it desensitizes the neurons in the skin. A study found that capsaicin cream, when used for three weeks is effective in reducing chronic soft tissue pain.
However, it has not been proven to be effective in treating scabies. However, there is a common belief that it is an effective treatment against mites. Despite the controversy, it alleviates the pain and itching which is associated with scabies.
Speak to a doctor before using any of these products. Always do a patch test on your skin before using any new products.
6. Clove oil
Clove oil has antioxidant, antimicrobial and anesthetic properties with healing powers. Clove oil is known as an effective insecticidal. According to a study, oil is effective for the treatment of scabies. However, to know the full potential of the oil, more studies need to be conducted.
The oils recommended to treat scabies include the following:
- Anise seed
There is not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of turmeric for the treatment of scabies. However, there are some claims that turmeric is effective in alleviating the symptoms associated with scabies.
Treating the symptoms will not cure or stop the mites from infesting, therefore, other methods of treatment will still be needed.
Zinc can be used to fight off the secondary infections which are a result of the open skin wounds and is not a direct treatment for scabies. The skin wounds occur as a result of the person scratching.
The use of borax or sodium borate to treat scabies is controversial. The product is mostly used as laundry washes and as a household cleaning product.
Even though there are claims that it treats scabies, using it on the skin in still questionable. It may be effective in a person’s laundry but cannot be used directly on the skin to eliminate the scabies mites.
10. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is believed to be effective for the treatment of scabies. Much has been written about it. However, there is not enough evidence to support the claim.
Cleaning up after scabies mites
The scabies mites can survive up to four days even when not on a human host. Therefore, to treat your home for the prevention of reinfestation, it is important to treat your home. Wash all bedding, towels, and clothing in hot water and then dry them in a hot dryer. If there are items in the house which cannot be washed, then they should be sealed in plastic bags for at least 5 days. Everyone living in a house infested with mites should go through the same cleaning routine, irrespective of whether they were bitten by the mite or not.
When should you see a doctor?
You cannot get rid of the scabies rash immediately; it takes some time. And even after the rash starts to heal, the itching may still persist. However, you should see a doctor, if you are experiencing symptoms even after a few weeks of treatment. The doctor will be able to determine if you have scabies for certain. Prescription cream may be given to you for use. For more serious cases, you may require prescription pills.
Scabies does not heal over the night and you may experience the itching associated with it for quite some time. If you practice healthy habits during your treatment, then it may help you see results faster. If you can, exercise and get some extra rest. Eat foods as healthy as possible, all of these factors will help you get better faster.
Be careful of the fact that scabies is contagious, so, take measure to make sure that you aren’t infecting other people. Take the best possible care of yourself and focus on getting better each day.
How to be sure if you have scabies or something else?
Scabies may be mistaken for other skin conditions in the early stages because the rash looks quite similar. What sets scabies apart from mosquito bites and acne, conditions which have similar clinical presentation as scabies is the relentless itch. The itching is usually most severe in elderly and children.
Scabies is contagious and spreads through prolonged contact from the skin to skin. It gives the mites time to crawl from one person to another. Shared bedding, personal items, and towels are to blame. It can pass easily between family members and sexual partners. However, it is unlikely for scabies to spread with a hug or a quick handshake the scabies mites crawl very slowly and cannot fly or jump.