Could I have scabies?


The UK is currently experiencing a surge in scabies, prompting concern from healthcare professionals and the public alike. This highly contagious skin condition can affect anyone and causes an intensely itchy rash.

Understanding what scabies is, how it spreads, and the available treatment options can help in managing this uncomfortable condition. So, if you’re worried you may have it, or simply want to find out more, read on to discover everything you need to know.

What is scabies?

Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites. These microscopic mites burrow into the upper layer of the skin, where they live and lay eggs.

The most common symptom of scabies is a severe itching that tends to worsen at night. The rash can appear as tiny blisters or red bumps and is often found in the folds of the skin, such as between fingers, around the waist, under the arms, or on the buttocks and genitals.

Scabies is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It can also spread through contact with infested clothing, bedding, or furniture, though this is less common.

Scabies can affect anyone, regardless of personal hygiene habits. Outbreaks are often seen in crowded environments like schools and nursing homes. The number of cases has increased dramatically over recent years and it has become much more common so that anyone with a new, persistently itchy rash should consider the possibility of scabies.

What are the best treatments for scabies?

The first line of treatment for scabies is usually topical medications, such as creams or lotions that kill the mites. These are applied over the entire body and often left on for several hours or overnight. It’s crucial to follow the application instructions carefully and treat all household members and close contacts to prevent re-infestation.

Besides medication, it’s important to wash all clothing, bedding, and towels used by the infected person in hot water and to vacuum furniture and carpets.

Recently, there have been news reports about a shortage of topical medications to treat the condition in the UK. This can cause delays in beginning treatment, which can also worsen existing skin conditions, such as eczema.

In cases where topical treatments are not effective, or in short supply, oral medication may be necessary. Only Consultant Dermatologists can prescribe oral ivermectin, an effective alternative for treating the condition.

Seek support from a Consultant Dermatologist

Given the current rise in scabies cases, prompt treatment and prevention are essential.

If you suspect you may have it or have been in close contact with someone who is infected, it’s advisable to seek advice from a specialist dermatologist, for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Dr Juliet Williams treats many different skin conditions that can cause skin itching, and understands just how distressing this can be. She can help advise on a treatment that is designed specifically for your unique needs and challenges.

Remember, early intervention can help control the spread and alleviate the discomfort associated with the condition.