Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit

Scabies Treatments To Make Your Life Easier

In this article, we'll show you how to identify a scabies rash. Plus, these scabies treatments are a life-savor if you're suffering from intense skin itching.

Itching min scaled

Seeking out the best scabies treatments is nothing to be ashamed of. The condition may sound icky, but you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually quite common.

Scabies is an itchy, contagious skin rash that occurs due to a burrowing mite. Treatments involve killing the mites and their eggs as well as alleviating the intense itch that often accompanies it.

Read on to learn how to identify a scabies rash. Our experts also provide the best scabies treatments you can use right at home.

What Is Scabies?

Crusted scabies are highly contagious and may lead to a severe skin reaction.

The body’s immune response to the parasitic human itch mite called Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis causes scabies. Once infestation begins, it can take as long as four to eight weeks for the immune response to develop and for symptoms to appear. However, for someone with recurring scabies or who has had scabies before, symptoms may present within one to four days.

Crusted scabies (also known as “Norwegian scabies”) is the more severe and highly contagious form of this condition. It typically inflicts individuals with compromised immunity, resulting in the formation of thick crusts, housing thousands of mites and eggs.

Prolonged skin-to-skin contact can spread scabies as it allows the mites to jump from one human host to another. Therefore, crowded settings like nursing homes and day-care centers run the risk of an outbreak the moment there is even just one infested person.

How To Identify Scabies Symptoms

The primary symptoms of scabies are skin rashes and intense itching. The rash typically appears around skin folds between the fingers, wrists, inside the elbows and knees, under the breasts and nipples, genitals, and other parts of the body.

In young children, scabies rash may also appear in the soles of the feet, palms, and scalp. When examined carefully, the tunnels created by the mite appear as thin raised irregular lines.

Itching due to scabies gets worse at night. Intense and vigorous scratching often leads to further inflammation, breaking the skin and increasing the risk for skin infections.

If left untreated, scabies can lead to serious complications, such as a rare kidney disease known as post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN) as well as rheumatic heart disease. Additionally, impetigo is a common secondary bacterial infection that can lead to kidney and heart disease.

You can mistake scabies rash for other skin conditions, such as bed bugs, eczema, or psoriasis, so it’s important to get a clear confirmation. Diagnosis of scabies is usually through observation of the symptoms such as the rash, itching, and appearance of burrows. Doctors will ask patients about activities in the past weeks to ascertain where they might have caught the parasite.

Scabies Treatments

Upon diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe medication that will kill the mites and their eggs. These scabies treatments, also called scabicides, are topical creams or ointments that contain permethrin, malathion, benzyl benzoate, lindane, crotamiton, or sulfur.

Patients must put the topical medicine all over the body, left on for the recommended amount of time, and then reapply as directed by a physician. Sometimes the physician may also prescribe the oral medication ivermectin. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, antibiotics will be part of the treatment as well. An infected person may also choose to take antihistamines to reduce the intense itching and help them sleep. 

Treatment doesn’t stop just with the infested person, however. The whole household or shared facility must ensure its contacts are also diagnosed and treated, especially those with known prolonged contact with the infected person. For example, bedding, towels, and clothing must be thoroughly washed.

Failure to seek treatment can greatly decrease the quality of life and can progress to the more severe crusted or Norwegian scabies, which is even more contagious. Untreated secondary bacterial infections can also be deadly and lead to other medical complications involving crucial organs, such as the kidney and heart. 

TCM Scabies Treatments

Lemongrass essential oil has soothing properties that may be suitable as a scabies treatment.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), skin disorders are usually a sign of the body’s inability to get rid of pathogens. With scabies, pathogens include mites, eggs, and fecal matter buried in the outer layers of the skin. Inflammation of the skin is a sign of heat, while wet, oozing pustules indicate dampness. Itching indicates Wind.

A well-known topical decoction for treating scabies is the Ku Shen Tang Gao, which consists of several different TCM herbs like Ku Shen (sophora root), She Chuang Zi (Cnidium fruit), and Di Fu Zi (Kochia fruit) that attack the parasitic pathogens as well as rebalance these excess elements.

Numerous studies have shown that these herbs provide anti-inflammatory and anti-itching relief for skin conditions such as scabies. The topical application of essential oils made from lemongrass could also be beneficial. You may also wish to use immunity-boosting supplements to help soothe your skin’s reaction to scabies.

According to registered TCM physician Kong, improving skin health following scabies requires maintaining a lighter diet. This includes the consumption of more fruits and vegetables as well as cooling foods. He also recommends avoiding alcohol, beer, and spices like chili.

What is scabies and how do you treat and prevent them? The best defense is of course avoiding infestation in the first place, so be sure to keep proper hygiene and maintain a healthy immune system to help fight any parasitic infestation. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “(Scabies),” which first appeared on the Health123 website.

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