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Scabies is a common skin infestation that causes small itchy bumps and blisters due to tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites burrow into the top layer of human skin to lay their eggs.

The burrows sometimes appear as short, wavy, reddish, or darkened lines on the skin's surface, especially around the wrists and between the fingers. A child who has contracted scabies can also develop a bumpy red rash.

How Do People Get Scabies?

Scabies is contagious, and is usually transmitted by prolonged skin-to-skin contact or through sexual contact with someone else who is infected with it. The infection spreads more easily in crowded conditions and in situations where there is a lot of close contact - like within a household, childcare centers, college dorms, or nursing homes. So if someone in your child's class or childcare group has scabies, it's wise to have your child treated for the infection even before he or she develops symptoms.

Mites can live for about 2 to 3 days in clothing, bedding, or dust, making it possible to catch scabies from people who share the same infected bed, linens, or towels.

It may take up to 4 to 6 weeks after infection for symptoms to appear in someone who's never had scabies before. In people who have had scabies previously, symptoms may appear in just a few days.

Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptom of scabies is severe itching, which may be worse at night or after a hot bath.

A scabies infection begins as small, itchy bumps, blisters, or pus-filled bumps that break when scratched. Itchy skin may become thick, scaly, scabbed, and crisscrossed with scratch marks. The itching is due to a hypersensitivity reaction to the mite and/or its feces and eggs.

The areas of the body most commonly affected by scabies are the hands and feet (especially the webs of skin between the fingers and toes), the inner part of the wrists, and the folds under the arms. It may also affect other areas of the body, particularly the elbows and the areas around the breasts, genitals, navel, and buttocks.

If a child with scabies scratches the itchy areas of skin, it increases the chance that the injured skin will also be infected by bacteria. Impetigo, a bacterial skin infection, may occur in skin that is already infected with scabies.

In infants and young children, the rash can be on the scalp, palms, and soles of feet. Rashes in infants and young children can appear to be more reddened or with larger blisters.

Continue Treatment

Scabies infections need to be treated by a doctor. Call the doctor or dermatologist any time your child has a skin itch or rash that will not go away, especially if the itch is worse at night and occurs around the wrists or in the webbed part of the fingers.

If scabies is suspected, the doctor may scrape a small part of the affected skin and examine the scrapings under a microscope for signs of scabies mites. Doctors treat scabies by prescribing a medicated cream or lotion to kill the mites. The cream will need to be applied to the skin all over the body, not just the area with the rash, and usually must remain on the skin for 8 to 12 hours before it can be washed off. After applying it, don't wash your hands - scabies mites love the area between the fingers! You may want to apply the medication before your child goes to bed, then wash it off in the morning.

Most often, the treatment needs to be repeated in 1 week.

Sometimes the doctor may choose an oral medication instead of topical lotion to treat scabies in older children.

Since scabies is highly contagious and can cause re-infestations, other members of your household should also be treated, even if they have no symptoms. Because scabies can be sexually transmitted, sexually active teens with scabies should be examined for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) too. Any sexual partners will also need to be treated for scabies.

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Dr. Uma is one of the most qualified and professionally trained practicing Dermatovenerologist in the city of Hyderabad presently. She has done her Medical graduation from Rangaraya Medical college, University of Health Sciences, Hyderabad. She is member of IADVL and International Cosmetology Association.

She treats a wide range of skin conditions and diseases. Her expertise lies in special advanced treatments of stubborn Psoriases, Vitiligo,Leprosy,Skin cancers, SLE, vasculitis,all types of allergies, infections, diseases of skin hair and nail. sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, chancroid, herpes...etc, HIV treatments and follow ups.

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