What is the Seven-Year Itch or Scabies & How to Deal with It
- Skin & Hair Care Consultant
Not even remotely romantic, ‘the seven-year itch’, made popular by Marilyn Monroe, is something absolutely different in terms of dermatology – and goes by the name of Scabies.
What is Scabies?
Better known as Scabies, the seven-year-itch is a skin disease caused by human parasites – adult female microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. They can live on your skin for up to two months, reproduce on the surface and then burrow into your skin to lay eggs.
This causes a very itchy, pimple-like rash.
Why is it called the ‘Seven-year-itch’?
It is called so, simply because it is nearly impossible to get rid of. It waxes and wanes in about seven-year epidemic cycles. Of late, the tiny beasts have become more resistant, breaking this pattern as well.
What are the symptoms of Scabies?
The symptoms manifest quicker in people who have had a bout of Scabies before.
It typically includes a rash and intense itching that worsens at night. Continuous scratching leads to infection.
In babies, the most commonly infected areas are the:
- Soles of the feet
- Area between the fingers
Is Scabies contagious?
Yes, Scabies is highly contagious and spreads quickly through close physical contact in a family, school or nursing home.
Contact with someone who is infected requires it to be fairly intimate and prolonged for the mite to transfer. In fact, contact with infected clothing, bed linen and other personal articles is also a problem.
- Treatment is usually in the form of a topical medication suggested by a dermatologist.
- It is applied to the entire body – neck-down in most cases and left on for 8 to 14 hours before being washed off. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe pills as well. Treatment takes up to three days but may vary.
- To control itching, especially at night, antihistamine pills are prescribed.
Use a hydrocortisone only if recommended by a doctor, as it can change the appearance of the scabies rash, making it more difficult to diagnose.
Keep your living space and wardrobe clean, especially if you feel they might be contaminated. You may use bleach and hot water to get rid of mites hiding in the linen or on surfaces. Remember, just as the itch of scabies takes a while to peak, it takes time to subside after treatment too.