Scabies is a skin infection caused by an invisible microscopic organism. It is transmitted by close skin contact with another person who has the infection. Sexual contact is not necessary for transmission of the infection. Sharing clothing or sleeping in the same bed with an infected individual can be other routes of infection. There may be delay of several days or a few weeks before characteristic intense itching occurs as a result of the body's allergic reaction to the organism. Small pink scaly bumps or tiny blisters then begin to appear, especially on the hands wrists, feet, ankles, waist, armpit and genital area. Without proper treatment, the infection can persist for weeks or months. People with suppressed immune systems or who are generally weakened and debilitated are at especially high risk for this problem.
Scabies is treated with application of prescription creams to the skin surface that kill the infectious organisms. The creams should be applied at bedtime to the entire skin surface from below the neck as well are behind the ears, left on all night, and rinsed off in the morning with a bath or shower. That morning, the bed sheets, pillowcases, pajamas and undergarments should be washed in regular detergent and hot water. The same procedure should then be repeated one week later to ensure adequate treatment. Any itchy family members or other close contacts will also need the same therapy.
The rash and itching from scabies can persist up to 1-2 weeks after successful treatment of the infection. This can usually be managed with cortisone creams and moisturizer lotions. It is very important to avoid further irritation of the skin by trying home remedies for scabies. This will only worsen the itching problem. Any itching that persists beyond 2 weeks would require a follow-up office visit to determine the cause.
Pets with sarcoptic mange are infected with related but also different microscopic organisms. Contact on human skin will cause small itchy bumps, but pet scabies will not reproduce on humans and therefore will not cause a generalized widespread itchy problem like human scabies does. However, without adequate treatment of the pet, people will continue to develop persistent itchy areas on skin that contacts the pet. To solve this problem, the pet should be treated by a veterinarian.
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