What are Scabies?
Scabies are one of several types of mites that “bite” people causing allergic reactions and triggering severe itching. What distinguishes scabies from other types of biting mites is their range is more limited due to their microscopic size and body type. They tend to remain very close to where they fall hoping to crawl back on a host if they remain inactive long enough. Their larger and more mobile cousins, the biting mites, have a much larger range and tend to live in clothing, furniture, bedding, and crevices, venturing out to find you. The treatment programs for biting mites is quite different than for treating scabies. Most of these mites can infest your home and live on the host for up to a month laying hundreds of eggs to continually re-infest you.
How did I get Scabies?
“Scabies” is transmitted by direct personal contact. Prolonged contact between household members may allow transmission to occur. Transmission is also possible through prolonged contact with infected linens, furniture, or clothing. People with weakened immune systems, children, and the elderly are at risk for more severe cases of scabies called Norwegian or crusted scabies. Crowded conditions, particularly where children sleep together, spread scabies faster.
What are the symptoms?
Some mite symptoms are stinging biting, crawling sensations on the skin and tiny pin pricks. Presence of mite burrows, often in a zigzag or “S” shape. Presence of lesions such as brown nodules, rashes, or pimple-like irritations on the skin are common symptoms. Symptoms worsen at night.
What do scabies look like?
The general rule is scabies mites cannot be seen by the naked eye and are rarely observed above the neck. Scabies tend to have traditional patterns and rashes on certain areas of the body. Rashes on the wrists, inside of elbow, groin, belly button, behind the knees, chest, under bra straps, belts and waist bands are all common with scabies. Some report seeing little lint-like particles or fibers, which can be bothersome in the eyelashes and eyebrows. Some report seeing little flecks of black pepper. Some report seeing like white grains of salt. These latter symptoms are more associated with a condition called Morgellens, collembola or springtails.
How long until I show symptoms?
If you have never been infested before, it could take several weeks to one and a half months after the initial infestation for symptoms to show up. If you have been infested with mites previously, symptoms will appear in 1 to 5 days.
How long am I infectious?
You are considered infectious from the time you become infected until treatment is successfully completed. Linens and clothing are considered infectious until treated or until 2 weeks after last exposure. After treatment, a person may unknowingly become re-infested through exposure to the primary source of contact or from contact with a different infested source.
If I am not showing symptoms, but someone else in the house has scabies, do I need to be treated?
YES! All people exposed to scabies need to be treated whether you are obviously infected or not. As it takes a few weeks for symptoms to show up you could be infested. Failure to treat all members of the household could cause a constant re-infestation of the household.
Why does it itch so badly?
For their small, round size, scabies can be quite active. The movement through the shallow burrows in addition to secretion and fecal matter irritating the skin causes severe itching.
How long does the itching last?
Current rashes and itching may continue for 2-3 weeks even after completion of successful treatment. This is because your skin is still irritated. However, you should not feel any crawling or biting sensations, or experience any new rashes. Severe cases may develop nodular scabies that form small bumps under the skin. These bumps can be quite irritating for several weeks. Aggressive treatment can relieve this type of itching.
How long can the scabies mite live off of the host?
A scabies mite can live in bedding or other areas for up to 72 hours before they need to get on a host again.
Who is at risk for severe infestation?
People with weakened immune systems and the elderly are at risk for a more severe form of scabies called Norwegian, or crusted scabies.
How long does it take the eggs to hatch?
It takes approximately 3 to 5 days to hatch and about 5 days after hatching to become adult mites. At this point the cycle will begin again.
Do I need to do anything special to my house?
You would need to put and seal recommended zippered plastic mattress covers over the beds, wash all linens with bleach/borax, and place all sheets/blankets in a dryer on high for at least 20 minutes everyday. All clothing should be laundered in bleach/borax also and it is recommended to place these in the dryer for 20 minutes also before wearing. You also need to treat any other furniture as well as car seats and office chairs. Carpets and upholstery need to be thoroughly vacuumed and then dispose of the bag. If you have a canister vacuum with no bag, dispose of contents and then disinfect the canister. Items can also be placed in a sealed plastic bag and put away. If the mites do not get a meal within one week, they die.
Why do I need to cover my mattress and other items?
Mites crawl off of the host and hide in the mattress/furniture, where they can live for approximately 72 hours, when they sense the warmth of a body, they crawl back up to infest the host again.
Should I use a fogger to fumigate my home?
No, are generally not considered very effective for scabies, however it is for biting mites.
Human Scabies Environment FAQ
How can I get deep into my furniture?
You can purchase a Steam Cleaner. It comes with several attachments that can be used thru-out your home and vehicle. The machine will shoot hot steam through the fabric and foam/batting of the furniture. You can also use it to steam crevices around doors and windows and floors.
Does freezing things help to get rid of the mites?
No, heat is more effective against the scabies mites in your home. The mites are be are believed to have fluid inside them that acts much like anti-freeze so they tolerate lower temperatures better.
Myths and Facts
Fact: Some people will not get scabies even if they are in close contact with someone who does, if they have a strong immune system. However, we don’t advise you to test it.
Fact: Scabies mites can “engineer” counter measures or enzymes that neutralize the effectiveness of lindane, permethrins and other neuro toxins commonly used to battle mites on you. These mites become super resistant and difficult to get rid of.
Fact: Overuse of these poisons can cause very harmful side effects, asthmatic breathing, temporary paralysis, liver failure, general weakness, lethargy. If you have a job that requires a high mental concentration you will noticeably under perform
Myth: Once you have had scabies you can’t get it again. No even with highly toxic poisons they eventually leave your system in 1 to 2 weeks, except in your liver and other vital organs where it may stay causing permanent damage. You can easily get scabies again if you are exposed. There is no immunity drug available to prevent a new outbreak.
Fact: Garlic is helpful for controlling mites and scabies. Garlic is helpful in controlling mites but it’s use has shown only limited benefits. It has obvious flaws.
Myth: Apple cider vinegar for scabies. Apple cider will provide some relief from the itching of scabies however it will not eliminate them other than by drowning.
Myth: Salt water for scabies. Salt water, depending on its salinity and mineral content, has marginal benefits and relief as a treatment for scabies.
Fact: Baking soda and Borax for scabies when used as an additive for laundering and sprinkling on carpet are effective.