Scabies or the seven-year itch, as it is commonly known, is a contagious skin infestation caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei – a microscopic human mite. Among the various symptoms, most common ones are the severe itchiness and pimple-like rashes. Tiny burrows may be rarely seen in the skin.
Usually, it takes two to six weeks before symptoms occur after infestation takes place. However, if a person develops a second infestation, symptoms may begin within a day. Scabies symptoms can appear across most of the body or just certain areas including the wrists, between fingers, or along the waistline. In young children, the head may also be affected. The itch is often worse at night. And scratching may cause skin collapse that can cause an additional bacterial infection of the skin.
Scabies treatment involves removing the infestation with medications. Your doctor may prescribe you with several creams and lotions. Usually, the medication has to be applied all over your body - from neck down, and leave the medication on for at least eight hours. In addition, a second treatment is required if new burrows and rashes appear.
Because scabies is highly transmittable, your doctor will likely recommend treatment for all the household members and other close contacts, whether they may or may not even show signs of scabies infestation.
Commonly prescribed medications for scabies include:
- Permethrin cream, 5 percent - Permethrin is a topical cream containing chemicals that tends to kill scabies mites and their eggs. Generally, it is considered safe for adults, pregnant women, and even infants. However, this medicine isn’t recommended for nursing mothers. But, these days permethrin is not used much as it is said to cause cancer.
- Lindane lotion - Lindane is also a chemical treatment and is recommended only for people who can't tolerate other approved treatments. This medication isn't safe for children, younger than age 2 years, pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or anyone who weighs less than 110 pounds. Lindane is and agricultural pesticide and hence studied to cause various severe diseases. Also, in countries like UK and US the use of Lindane is completely banned.
- Crotamiton - Crotamiton or Eurax is available as a lotion or topical cream. It's applied once for two days. This medication isn't recommended for children or lactating or pregnant women. However, frequent treatment failures have been reported with crotamiton.
- Ivermectin - Doctors may prescribe the oral dose of ivermectin in addition to the topical creams for people with altered immune systems, or for people with crusted scabies. Women who are pregnant or nursing, or for children who weigh less than 33 pounds should not be given the ivermectin doses.
- Sulfur-based lotions, topical creams, or soaps have been used to treat scabies since years. Scabies based treatments like Dr. Scabies have been proved highly effective. However, they should not be used in people who are allergic to sulfur.
Though all the above medications kill the scabies mites effectively, you may find that the itching doesn't go away entirely for several weeks. As such, your doctor should prescribe treatments, such as a mild steroid cream in order to reduce the itchiness. Over the counter menthol cream or gel may also help relieve itchy skin.
You can also get oral sedative antihistamines from your local pharmacy and can use it to control itching and help you get a better sleep at night. As this type of antihistamine can cause drowsiness, driving or operating heavy machinery should be avoided if you're affected in this way. Non-sedating antihistamines don't help relieve the itching of scabies. You may also continue to experience itchiness for a few weeks after your treatment has been completed. This happens because your immune system will still be reacting to the presence of dead mites and their droppings.