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Itching can be a symptom of scabies

There are more cases of scabies in Ostrobothnia than in previous years. Scabies is an itchy rash caused by the scabies mite, which is spread between people through frequent and close skin contact. At the moment, scabies is spreading, among other places, in daycare centres, institutional care facilities and within families.

Scabies is caused by the scabies mite, which is a 0.3–0.5 mm parasite. Scabies is spread by the fertilised female scabies mite burrowing into the upper layer of the skin where it then lays its eggs. The life span of the scabies mite is 4–8 weeks. Outside humans, an adult scabies mite lives for 24–36 hours, while immature mites can live up to a week. Scabies treatment does not always require a visit to the doctor, since it can also be treated at home.

Symptoms include severe itching at night

The most typical symptom of scabies is itching between the fingers as well as on the wrists, stomach, buttocks, chest and genitals. However, due to increased hand washing and disinfection, it may be that burrows are only found on the feet or the body. In the beginning, no burrows are necessarily visible.

Itching is intense, especially at night or after a hot shower. Other symptoms are rashes, scratch marks and blisters. Symptoms develop approximately 3–6 weeks after infection. In case of re-infection, symptoms may appear after 1–3 days.

Infection requires close skin contact with an infected person or sleeping in the same bed with an infected person. Scabies therefore most often occurs in daycare centres, schools, institutional care facilities and within families. Scabies is only transmitted by short-term skin contact or by shaking hands in exceptional cases.

Relief through creams or tablets

Scabies is treated with a topical treatment or tablet medication. The treatment is repeated 8 days after the first treatment. Family members, partners and others in close contact must be treated at the same time. All close contacts, both with and without symptoms, should be treated twice to prevent the infection from returning.

For topical treatment, you can, for example, use permethrin cream, which is available at a pharmacy without a prescription. The cream is applied in the evening over the entire skin. A sulphur petrolatum (Vaseline) mixture can also be used, especially if permethrin cream does not give the desired result. Oral tablet medication can be obtained with a prescription written by a doctor.

In the treatment of long-term scabies, an intensive treatment with both topical treatment and tablet treatment is recommended. It can take up to 3-4 weeks for the skin symptoms and itching to disappear completely, so such symptoms should not be interpreted as a failure or as a re-infection. Rashes are treated twice a day with cortisone cream and ointment, generally for about a week. If necessary, antihistamines can also be taken against scabies-related itching.

– If home remedies don’t help and the situation worsens, you can call the Customer Service Centre number on 06 218 9000 to assess your need for treatment. Through this, an appointment will first be booked for a nurse and, if necessary, a doctor, says Chief Dermatologist Johanna Hagman from the Wellbeing Services County of Ostrobothnia.

A person is no longer infectious to others when 24 hours have passed after the first treatment. In any case, it is good to notify the daycare centre about a child’s scabies infection. In addition, it is also good to inform others with whom you have been in close contact.

Clean the home carefully!

After treating scabies, it is important to remember to change and wash all used clothes, towels and bedding. Machine washing at 60 degrees has been found to kill scabies mites. Mattresses, carpets, sofas and fabric chairs should be carefully vacuum cleaned.

Alternatively, clothes can be put in a freezer or left outside for a day in the winter (-20°C). The heat of the sauna (over 80°C) also kills mites in two hours.

After the first treatment, it is a good idea to clean the home carefully, for example on the following morning.