What is scabies?
Scabies is an itchy and unsightly skin condition caused by mites under the skin. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds and being infected does not imply a lack of cleanliness. This particular mite only affects humans, so pets are safe from infection and will not cause the infection. The mites are a type of parasite that burrow beneath the skin and lay eggs.
It is important to identify and treat scabies as soon as possible, particularly with children because it can be highly contagious. Close contact such as in schools, day cares, and play groups will allow the mites to spread quickly among the children and adults. Though scabies is contagious and rather uncomfortable, it is not threatening to a child’s general health. Treatments are necessary to remove the mite, but these are generally relatively easy and very effective.
Children frequently end up with all sorts of bites, rashes, and scrapes from playing and other causes, but being able to distinguish the symptoms of scabies will help treat the condition as soon as possible. The symptoms showing that the scabies and kids are ‘close friends’ include:Red bumps clustered on the skin – often these will resemble pimplesMore sensitive areas of skin, such as armpits, the groin, and areas between fingers and toes, tend to be affected most oftenLittle wiry lines may be seen around the rash as “burrows” where the mites travel beneath the skinThese rashes can be very itchy and the sensation tends to intensify at night
Children can be infected with scabies for 4-6 weeks before a rash develops, so if other children or family exhibit symptoms, it’s a good idea to be checked by a doctor. If possible, encourage children not to scratch at the rash because this may obscure some of the characteristic symptoms like the burrows leading to diagnosis.
Treatment for scabies general is in the form of a prescription cream or lotion applied over the entire surface area of the body (excluding the head and face, unless also affected). It is very important to be treated as soon as possible because the mites lay eggs which when they reach adulthood will lay more eggs causing the condition to worsen and spread.
Unfortunately the mites that cause scabies can be a bit stubborn and survive outside the human body for several days. In order to protect from repeat infections, all linens, recently worn clothes, and cloth toys need to be washed and dried at a very high temperature to kill any remaining mites. It’s advised that children, their families, and friends/classmates with whom they come in contact regularly, all receive treatment around the same time to prevent the mites from re-infecting previously treated individuals.
The rash is an allergic reaction to the mites and their eggs, and even after treatment, the itchiness may remain for a few days or a week. After successful treatment for the scabies, the itchiness can be treated using common means such as antihistamines or a topical itch-reducing lotion.