What are scabies mites and why should you get rid of them?
The human scabies mite (Sarcoptes scabei, sometimes known as the human itch mite) is the only known arthropod in Australia that can infest human skin and cause health problems. This species of mites is found worldwide. It can live under the skin and cause a condition that is known as scabies. The mites are very small (less than 0.5 mm long) straw-coloured and oval-shaped bugs that have short thick legs. They are wingless with no eyes. Mite larvae have six legs while the nymphs have eight legs.
Scabies mites dig burrows to get under the skin and are able to make tunnels through the upper layers of the skin using an enzyme that dissolves human skin. They do not need blood to survive but rather eat human skin inside the tunnels. Typically, only one mite lives in a tunnel and rarely leaves it. In most cases, an infected person may have less than 20 female mites.
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What are the first signs of a scabies mites problem?
Most scabies infestations are hard to detect especially during the early stages. A scabies mite infestation may only be visible after a month or so. The first symptoms occur only after the host has been sensitised and has developed an allergic reaction to the scabies mites faeces, skin moults and saliva (or the fluids that are present in the tunnels). The tunnels can be pale grey and threadlike that often follow the natural creases in the skin. They are mostly found in the host’s elbows, genitals area, breasts, wrists and hands, especially areas between the fingers.
How long do scabies mites live?
Their life cycle lasts around 10 to 17 days. They mate on the skin surface. Once females are fertilized, they will quickly burrow into the skin. The scabies mite lays individual eggs at a rate of 3 eggs per day. A female mite is able to lay 40 eggs during its lifetime. The scabies mite egg hatches in 48 hours.
Why is a scabies mite infestation dangerous to your health?
Rashes may appear due to an allergic reaction to scabies mites. Patients may feel severe itching and irritation across their entire bodies, which becomes severe at night. Scabies mites may also transfer diseases. Crusted scabies, also known as Norwegian scabies, is a term that describes the extreme infestation of thousands of scabies mites.
How do you diagnose and treat scabies caused by mites?
The presence of scabies mites needs to be confirmed by a general practitioner before any treatment can begin. Skin scrapings are often needed before a diagnosis can be made. These need to be taken from a point of bleeding and examined under a microscope to check and confirm an infestation.
There is a new alternative to skin scrapings. Video dermatoscopy is a noninvasive test used to determine the presence of mites, their eggs, and faces using a camera that magnifies the skin. Once the diagnosis has been made, scabies infestations are usually easy to control with topical scabicides.
What are the common problems associated with scabies mites?
Scabies mites bite humans especially around the armpits, ankles, and areas where clothing rubs tightly against the skin. Some mite species can cause very painful bites. Their bites result in itchy red marks or rashes. Intense itching and scratching may lead to infection.
Scabies mites may cause persistent, itchy rashes. These pests burrow into the skin to breed and then emerges to feed on flesh, which causes discomfort.
People with dust allergies are usually also allergic to dust mites that live in carpets and furniture. Mite carcasses and feces can become airborne and people can inhale it. This will cause stuffy noses, watery eyes, and sneezing.
How do you get scabies mites?
Scabies mites are often transmitted through physical contact, especially during sexual contact or by simply sharing the bed. Mites live up to three days away from their host. They are a serious problem in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia where up to 50% of some communities are infected. Improvements in hygiene and treatment have successfully lowered infestation rates, but the problem still persists in some of these communities.
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