The man­age­ment of sca­bies

The Punch - - AM BUSINESS - Trans­mis­sion Sca­bies

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.


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.

Clin­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions

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 an­ti­s­ca­bies 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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