Scabies, also known as “craw-craw”, is a common skin disease in Nigeria caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei, a mite which lays its eggs and reproduces under the surface of the skin. When the eggs hatch, mites crawl out onto the skin and make new burrows.
The mites produce rashes (eruptions) in certain parts of the body. These rashes are so itchy they make the infested individuals to scratch all the time. Children are commonly affected. Scabies can affect adults as well. Males and females are affected equally. The disease can be classed as a sexually transmitted infection because it can be spread through sexual contact.
Transmission of Scabies
The incubation period for scabies is usually between four and six weeks for first infections. If you are re-infected, you may get symptoms within a few days. Scabies is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact – non-sexual and sexual, sexual activity, contact with towels underclothing or bedding of an infected person.
Overcrowding is one of the important factors that cause the spread of scabies. Individuals in closed-up communities and institutions, such as prisons, orphanages, internally displaced peoples camps and barracks are at high risk.
The disease can be localised within a family unit, day care centres and school dormitories. Sharing of blankets and clothes of infected individuals are important factors that also encourage the spread of scabies in our environment since the high environmental temperature and humidity can help the mites to survive outside the skin for at most three days.
Scabies (meaning ‘to scratch’), is a condition primarily characterised by intense itching, which is usually worse at night or after a hot shower or bath. You may also see silvery lines (burrow markings) under the skin. Itching is noticed in between the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles, under the breasts in women, genital area including the scrotum and penis in males. The infected individual will have scratch marks, small papules/pustules and raised/flattened burrows (home of the mites). Sometimes, the initial rash may get infected with bacteria or increase in size to form nodules (bumps); as a result of the individual developing allergic reaction to the mites.
Treatment includes anti-scabies lotions, avoiding skin-to-skin contact with your sexual partner/s until treatment is completed. Creams and lotions are better absorbed after a shower and towel drying. Apply a thin layer of the cream or lotion to your whole body surface, from the chin down.
A pastry brush may make it easier to apply. If possible, ask someone else to apply it for you. This will make sure your whole body surface is covered. Avoid your eyes, nose and mouth. Pay particular attention to the areas between your fingers, under your nails, the soles of your feet and between your buttocks. Do not wash your hands after treatment. Leave treatment on the body for 12 to 24 hours and then wash thoroughly.
People often choose to apply the cream in the evening and leave it on overnight. Re-apply the cream to any area that has been washed within 12 to 24 hours. The treatment may need to be repeated in a week’s time to kill recently hatched mites. If the pimples or spots become infected antibiotics may be necessary.
Ways to get rid of scabies
The best way to prevent getting scabies is to avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It’s also best to avoid wash clothing or bedding that has been used by a person infested with scabies. The mites can live for 48 to 72 hours after falling off the body. So you need to take certain precautions to prevent re-infestation.
Make sure to wash clothing, bedding, towels and pillows in hot water that has reached boiling point (100 Celsius). You also need to iron clothes and underwear with hot electric iron. These items should then be dried in the dryer on very high heat for at least 10 to 30 minutes or pressed with a hot electric iron, bleach and hot water can also be used to clean other surfaces that may contain scabies mites.
In conclusion, the itching from scabies often lasts for up to four weeks after successful treatment. Scabies is highly contagious. The sexual partners will also need treatment. Sexual intercourse is not allowed until the disease has been treated. The sexual partner/s should seek treatment.
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