Scabies itch can be intensely irritating and highly contagious. Scabies is caused by tiny mites that must be killed with the use of an insecticide referred to as scabicide. The resulting itch is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva and feces of the mites and can persist for several weeks after the mites die. There are many medicated treatments, as well as a variety of home remedies for treating scabies itch. All members of the household and any sexual partners must be treated at the same time, because the scabies mite can be present up to two weeks before itching begins.
Mites called Sarcoptes scabiei burrow beneath the skin. They live beneath the surface of the skin and lay eggs that hatch and reach maturity within two weeks. Scabies can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly begin on the hands and wrists, often between the fingers or toes. The mites can occur across the shoulders and the back of the neck, in the underarm and genital region.
Scabies is very contagious and is primarily passed via prolonged close contact. Residential homes, especially for the elderly, are at high risk of a widespread outbreak, because those with lower natural immune defense are more likely to contract the mites with less contact. Norwegian scabies are an even more contagious variety of mites, although the scabies itch is noticeably reduced or absent. This scabies variety causes thin crusty burrows on the surface of the skin and is more easily passed from one person to another. Residential units are more likely to have an outbreak of Norwegian scabies, because the mites can be passed by sharing towels, linen, clothing, combs and hair brushes.
Scabies should be treated as soon as possible, because the mites can spread to other parts of the body. Left untreated, scabies can cause secondary skin conditions such as eczema or bacterial skin infections. Scabicide is used to kill the mites, usually in the form of a topical ointment such as permethrin or lindane. Permethrin is often favored, because it is less toxic to the patient and less is absorbed into the body than with lindane. Some doctors recommend a second application around two weeks after the first, in case any eggs survived the first treatment.
Tea tree oil, which is an entirely natural remedy, also can be used to kill the mites and soothe scabies itch and discomfort. Usually used as a topical ointment or used as oil in bath water, tea tree oil treatments are used until the symptoms completely disappear. Tea tree oil soap also can be used to soothe scabies itch. Neem oil, another natural remedy, can be used in the same way.
Sulfur soap is recommended to help soothe scabies itch, as is chamomile lotion. Scabies itch is caused by an allergic reaction, so an oral anti-histamine tablet will usually reduce the redness, inflammation and itching. Another medicated remedy for reducing scabies itch is hydrocortisone topical ointment or any other mild steroid cream, which is usually applied two to three times a day until the symptoms disappear.