By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute
Scabies is caused by a mite that digs into the child’s skin. The illness appears by a strongly itching rash, especially on the child’s feet, scalp and face. Since scabies is contagious, often, several cases appear in the family or in the day care. The whole family needs treatment and the course of treatment should be repeated after 1 week. Even though the child has recovered and all the mites are dead, the itching can continue for up to 3 weeks after finished treatment.
Scabies is seen in all ages and often with children. At schools, in kindergartens and in day cares, scabies can spread very quickly.
Scabies is caused by a mite that lives in the skin. The pregnant female mite – just below ½ mm long, which is why you can barely see it with the naked eye – digs down under the skin in a few minutes. Here it drills a tunnel (burrow) where it leaves excrements and lays its eggs. The eggs are hatched during a few days and develop – over the next 3 to 4 weeks – into grown mites. The grown mites can live on the child’s skin for 4 to 5 weeks and during that time many female mites become impregnated. This continues until treatment is commenced.
The scabies mite is usually transmitted when children plays and romp about. Since the scabies mite can survive up to 24 hours on clothing, furniture and floors, scabies can also transmit from the surroundings.
2 to 4 weeks after the child has been transmitted with a scabies mite, it starts to itch. The itch, which is worst during the night, worsens every day. The itch can become so strong that the child will scratch so violently that it draws its own blood. With children the scabies mite is typically found on feet, scalp and face but also hands and the navel can come under attack. Where the scabies mite lives, the skin is red with small blisters. Since it itches, small wounds may appear where the child scratches itself.
It can be difficult to see whether a child has scabies. You can (with a magnifying glass and strong light) see the superficial burrows, where the female mite has dug into the skin. It looks like someone has drawn fine winding lines with a pencil on the child’s skin. It is usually not possible to see the scabies mite itself, since it resides in the very bottom of the burrows.