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Last Medical Review: March 26, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
What is scabies (March 26, 2020)

What is scabies?

It is a contagious infestation of the skin by a parasite, called “scabies mite”. The female digs small tunnels just below the outer surface of the skin to lay her eggs. These open after a few days to free the larvae. The infection is due to close contact with people suffering from scabies and it is not difficult for an entire family to be infected. It is often transmitted after sexual intercourse with a person suffering from scabies. Mites don’t live more than 2-3 days outside the human body, so that contagion through objects is more unlikely.

How it manifests itself

The main symptom is an intense itching that is accentuated during the night. The tunnels dug under the skin appear as small grayish reliefs from 3 to 15 millimeters long, located mainly between the fingers of the hand, the wrists, around the elbows, in the axillary folds, around the nipple in women and, in men, on the penis. It can be difficult to see the galleries since the skin is often irritated or infected as a result of the intense scratching caused by the itching.

What are the risks

The greatest danger is that of spreading the infestation to the other members of the community in which we live. Another risk is the infection of the injured areas following scratching.

What should be done

  • Scabies must be recognized by the doctor who will prescribe the appropriate medications for treatment. Prescribed drugs should be used carefully following the directions given by your doctor or pharmacist.
  • To prevent re-infestation between family members, it is advisable to treat all the cohabitants at the same time.
  • Shared towels should not be used with other people. Before undergoing treatment you need to sleep alone. All linen must be washed in the washing machine and ironed. Toys should be washed, while furniture and floors do not need to be washed.
  • After having undergone treatment with drugs against scabies, you can go back to school or work, even if the itching can remain for several more days.
  • It may be necessary to repeat the treatment with anti-scabies after 7-10 days, but the doctor will have to decide if and how to implement this second treatment. Do not use scabies medications on your own initiative.

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