What is Scabies?

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Living organisms that infest or otherwise “bug” humans (pun intended!) have been around since the dawn of time. With so many forms of itches, rashes, bumps, and other skin irritations we thought it may be helpful to provide a basic understanding of scabies.

What is scabies? The skin condition described as “Scabies” is caused by a tiny parasitic mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The female mite is predominately the cause of the initial infection when she uses her mouthparts and front legs to tunnel under the skin. Once in the skin, she lays 2-3 eggs a day while continuing to burrow across the skin of her human host. She lives for about 2 months and spends her days and nights loading her host up with eggs that hatch to become larva, that then transition to nymphs and eventually become adult Sarcoptes scabiei which then start the process again. The sex of the mite is determined by how many times the parasite molts, once for a male and twice for female so the females tend to be twice the size of the males. Okay, enough about the bugs, you are probably wonder how you get it and what the skin looks like right?!

How do you get it? The Sarcoptes scabiei mite is transmitted via direct skin to skin contact and is highly contagious. Outbreaks can commonly occur in hospitals and care facilities where people have close contact, conditions are unhygienic, or where high concentrations of people are in close proximity, though non-intimate casual contact is generally not a method of contracting scabies.

What are the symptoms? Once you are exposed and have become host to a fertile female Sarcoptes scabiei it can take up to six weeks for an itchy red rash to appear on your skin. Though no other symptoms may be present during the first six weeks other people having close contact with the host can become infected and spread the parasite further. If you’ve had contact with someone who has been recently diagnosed, be sure to tell you physician if you too should become symptomatic. The itch can start as mild irritation accompanied with redness and then intensify to unbearable itching with increased intensity at night. Intensity can be so unbearable that the host may not even be able to sleep.

If you experience any of the above symptoms you should contact your physician. It’s important to note that only a doctor can prescribe treatments that are effective in battling scabies.

For minor itches and irritation year round I keep my paraben-free ATOPALM Intensive Moisturizing Cream handy! It’s a multipurpose moisturizer that really works well to relieve irritation and redness associated with seasonal factors and even summer bug bites like mosquitos and chiggers.

Sources: Parasitesinhumans.org, Scabiesweb.org, Medicinenet.com.




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