What is it?
Scabies is an infestation of tiny mites (Sarcoptes scabiei), (smaller than crabs) which burrow under the skin.
How do you get it?
Scabies is passed on by close skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact, and contact with towels, bed linen and underwear of an infected person.
What are the symptoms or signs?
Scabies are tiny and hard to see. The most common symptoms are a rash or itching caused by the mite burrowing under the skin to lay eggs. The mites prefer warm areas such as the armpits and groin but are also commonly found in the spaces between the fingers and the toes. Scabies usually gets noticed within four weeks. You may see silvery lines where the mite has burrowed.
You can usually identify scabies by self-examination.
Can it be treated?
Scabies can be treated with anti-scabies lotions available from pharmacies. At the time of treatment wash all your bed linen, towels and clothing in warm, soapy water and dry well. Partners and anyone in close physical contact should also be treated. It is advisable to repeat the treatment after seven days. The itch can last up to four weeks after successful treatment.
How can it be prevented?
It is difficult to prevent catching scabies because it is passed on by close physical contact. To prevent scabies from recurring after an outbreak, wash everything (including bed linen, clothes, towels and underwear) that may have come into contact with the mites in hot soapy water. All contacts, including people you live with, need to have treatment and it is advisable to repeat it after 7 to 10 days.