What is scabies?
Scabies is a skin condition caused by mites, a kind of insect, that can live under the skin. The mites are less than half a millimetre long. They dig tunnels under the skin, and lay eggs. You cannot see the mites because they are under the skin.
People get a different type of scabies than cats and dogs.
How is scabies spread?
The scabies that people can get is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. You must be in contact with another person's skin for about 15 minutes or more for scabies to be passed on. It can also be passed on if you sleep in the same bed. It cannot be spread through a handshake or a hug.
Once you are infected, it takes 4 to 6 weeks before the itching starts. You can spread scabies to other people before it starts to itch. After scabies treatment, you are no longer contagious.
How can I tell if I have scabies?
Scabies can cause itching at a number of places on the body.
You will usually feel most of the itching on your hands, around your belly button, and on your nipples and genitals. Itching on the head is not common. The itching is usually at its worst in the evenings and at night.
When and where should I seek medical care?
You will need to be examined by a doctor to find out whether you have scabies. Make an appointment at a healthcare centre to see a doctor.
You can begin treatment immediately if you experience itching after contact with someone who has scabies.
Call the 1177 hotline if you would like advice about what to do. The hotline is staffed by nurses.
They can also give you information on where to seek care, if necessary.
How is scabies treated?
Scabies is treated with a cream called Tenutex. It is available at pharmacies without a prescription.
Follow these steps:
- Wash your whole body thoroughly with soap and water.
- Dry yourself off.
- Apply Tenutex all over your body, except for your head. Do not forget to apply it to your genitals, and between your fingers and toes.
- Leave the cream on your skin for 24 hours. Do not wipe it off.
- Rub more cream onto your hands after each time you wash your hands. Wear rubber gloves if you need to wash dishes, etc. Then throw the gloves away. Rub more Tenutex onto your hands afterwards, even after using gloves.
- After 24 hours, wash your body thoroughly. Wash all the clothes that you wore, your bedding and your towels at 60 degrees. You can also hang the clothes outside for at least 3 days. Do not forget shoes and winter gloves.
You may need to repeat the treatment regimen if the doctor thinks this is necessary.
Treat everyone at the same time
Everyone who lives in the same house must be treated at the same time. Otherwise, there is a risk that the scabies will spread again.
It may take a few weeks for the itching to stop completely. You can treat your skin with cream containing cortisone to make it itch less. The cream is available at pharmacies without a prescription.