Scabies is a highly contagious disease that spreads rapidly from person to person. It’s typically transferred by skin-to-skin contact, but it can also spread if an individual is exposed to personal items of an infested person. A person with scabies can pass it to others even if no symptoms are present. If you have been affected by this skin condition, it’s important to take the following precautions in order to prevent future infestations.
1. One of the most successful ways to protect yourself from scabies is to avoid direct contact with an infested person. The scabies mites pass from skin to skin rapidly, so taking this preventative measure significantly decreases the possibility of an outbreak.
2. In addition to avoiding any direct contact with an infested person, you should also refrain from using any of the individual’s personal items. These items include bedding, linens, clothing, shoes, brushes and even plush animals or other cloth toys.
3. If you have been exposed to scabies or you become infested with the mites, wash all your personal items thoroughly. Any other affected people should clean their contaminated belongings as well. Use the hot water cycle on the washing machine, and dry items using the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes.
4. Any items that cannot be washed still need to be treated. You can place smaller belongings into sealed plastic storage bags and place the bags in the freezer overnight. Store larger items in sealed bags for at least four or five days.
5. To remove any eggs or mites from mattresses and box springs, thoroughly vacuum the entire surface of the upholstery. You can also use a clothing iron on the contaminated mattress or box spring. The high amount of heat emitted from the iron will kill the mites.
6. In a home that has been exposed to scabies mites, proper cleaning is essential. Vacuum the carpets, rugs and furniture every day during treatment, and repeat the process at least once a week for a month. Furniture that is upholstered should also be vacuumed.
7. To clean hard surfaces, use a strong disinfectant at least one time after the initial scabies treatment begins. Wash any countertops and mop the floors in the kitchen, bathroom and utility or laundry room. You can also disinfect certain personal belongings like combs or hair accessories.
8. To avoid catching scabies from outside sources, always use your own bedding and linens when sleeping at someone else’s house. Give children their own sleeping bags and pillows, and remind them to use their own brushes and other personal items when spending time away from home.
9. Receiving treatment right away is an important step in preventing future scabies outbreaks. The most common form of treatment is the use of a topical insecticide cream. Anyone affected by the disease should seek medical care as soon as possible.
10. Once you discover that you have been infested with the scabies mites, it’s a good idea to become proactive in your treatment. Even if the medication kills the mites, it’s easy to become infested again. For successful, long-term disease control, visit your healthcare provider one month after your treatment.
Because scabies is so quick to spread, anyone exposed to the disease should seek treatment immediately. Treatment should be given to all members of a household at the same time. A rapid and aggressive response to the infestation will prevent the disease from spreading out of control. If you or someone close to you has been infested by scabies mites, begin disease management as soon as possible.