Scabies is a highly contagious but curable, itchy rash that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by the infection of the skin by a tiny mite just barely visible to the naked eye. The scabies mite burrows under the skin and causes severe itching and a rash which clears up in 2-6 weeks if treatment instructions are followed. Although most common in warm climates, scabies can occur anywhere and within all social and economic levels. It is easily transmitted from person to person through close physical contact, such as between family members, sexual partners or children playing at school. Nothing more than brief, casual contact with a person who is infested is required for transmission. Personal hygiene and cleanliness have absolutely nothing to do with scabies. People vary greatly in their sensitivity to the scabies mite. One person with scabies may suffer unbearable itching, while others will experience little or none at all.
Treatment consists of applying a mite-killing medication to your skin with the directions followed exactly as prescribed by your physician. Generally, a medication called permethrin (Elimite, Acticin) is used. All members of the family and close personal contacts should be treated at the same time. Scabies mites can live for only 1-3 days away from a live host. Wash all clothing, bed linen and towels in hot water and machine dry. Vacuum the entire house. Depending on severity, topical and oral antihistamines and cortisone may be prescribed.