What is scabies?
Scabies is caused by a tiny mite which can live on the skin. The mite burrows into the outer layer of the skin to lay its eggs. As the eggs hatch and grow into mites, they cause an allergic reaction in the skin, often accompanied by intense itching.
Crusted (Norwegian) Scabies occurs very occasionally and is found mainly in the elderly and people with immune system problems. The number of mites is much higher and causes thickening and crusting of the skin.
How is it spread?
Scabies is passed on by fairly prolonged, direct skin contact with an affected person, for example between couples or parents and their children. It is not spread by towels, bedding or clothing.
In crusted scabies cases, transmission by contact is easier and quicker because of the large number of mites present in the skin. Crusted scabies can also be transmitted via bedding, towels and clothing.
What are the symptoms?
The mites’ burrows can often be seen as thin light brown or silvery wavy lines often on the wrists, elbows, between the fingers, or genital areas.
Widespread and intense itching occurs, particularly at night.
A rash of pinkish-red, or small white-headed spots appears, commonly on the arms, inner thigh, buttocks and genitals. In infants and children, the face, scalp, palms and soles of the feet may also be affected.
In the early stages, an affected person may not show any symptoms of infection.
How could I have avoided catching it?
Scabies can infect anyone regardless of age, gender, cleanliness or living conditions. It can be transferred to anyone having contact with an affected person.
What will happen to me now?
Scabies is easily treated with a lotion that needs to be applied all over your body. This usually consists of two treatments, seven days apart. All people in close contact with you (e.g. family and household members, sexual partners) may require treatment at the same time to prevent re-infection occurring, even if they don’t have symptoms.
If you are admitted to hospital, you will need to be nursed in a single room until you have had your first course of treatment (24 hours).
You may find that itching continues, even after successful treatment. If after several days the itch is still present and not lessening, tell your doctor.
Following completion of each treatment, have a wash, bath or shower to remove the cream. If you were diagnosed with crusted scabies, it will be necessary to launder your bed linen and clothing.
If you have any queries, please ask the ward staff or contact the Infection Prevention & Control Department: 01271 322680.
NHS Direct Patient Information Leaflet
Online at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/Scabies/Pages/Introduction.aspx