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Scabies is a skin disorder that can cause irritation, rashes, itching, blisters, and redness.
This highly contagious skin disease results in approximately 300 million cases each year around the world, so knowing its causes as well as how to treat and prevent this annoying infestation can help you and those you love.
Our guide helps you understand where scabies comes from, how to avoid getting them, and how to treat them naturally should you ever become infected.
Caused by an insect, scabies is common in crowded conditions and places where people share objects and spaces, such as schools and healthcare facilities.
Outside of the US, scabies can still cause death, but within our society, it is usually easily treatable.
Keep reading to learn all about the natural remedies that can help you treat this skin disorder, as well as keep your skin healthy and glowing.
But first, understanding the causes and symptoms of scabies can help you stay clear of this disease.
The human itch mite, Sarcoptes scabiei, is the cause of scabies.
When adult female mites burrow under the outer layer of your skin, they live and deposit their eggs and cause an allergic reaction.
Scabies is passed easily from person to person through prolonged, direct contact, such as when you live together, have sex, or sleep close to someone else.
You can spread scabies even if you do not have any symptoms.
The most frequent way to transmit this skin disease is through sexual contact.
Scabies is easily spread through human contact, so it is quite common to see outbreaks of this disease in nursing homes, daycare centers, prisons, schools, hospitals, and other types of residential facilities.
Homeless who share tight quarters are also commonly infected with scabies, and this condition’s incidence is even higher in facilities designed to house and offer medical support to those who are homeless (2).
Scabies is found nearly everywhere on earth, and it affects all types of people.
The itch mite that causes scabies is very hard to detect just with your eyes, making them hard to notice until itching begins.
You need a microscope to identify these minuscule creatures definitively, and this sometimes can hamper diagnosis.
The itching from scabies is caused by an allergic reaction to the mites, their larvae, and the waste they produce.
Once you start scratching, you open your skin up to possible infection, as well.
Once the mites lay eggs and those eggs hatch, the offspring can then spread to other parts of your body, making treatment even more difficult.
It is therefore essential that you treat scabies as soon as you notice an infestation, and that you notify anyone with whom you’ve had close contact, to prevent the further spread of an outbreak.
While many times treatment can be effective with just one round, often you will require follow-up care to kill all the infestation on your body.
There are many conventional and natural treatments that are effective at getting rid of scabies.
While some can kill the mites, others relieve the itch and pain associated with them, and still, others support your immune system while it fights this skin disease.
Symptoms of Scabies
Once you have come into contact with scabies, it can take up to six weeks to develop symptoms.
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This is especially true if you’ve never had scabies before.
If you have previously been infected, symptoms may show much more quickly.
If you have a scabies infestation, you will likely see a rash that consists of tiny, red bumps, and possibly blisters, on just one part of your body.
Because the mites that cause scabies feed on tissue, not blood, they thrive on areas with sensitive skin and areas with lots of friction.
Common areas for scabies to burrow include the groin, buttocks, abdomen, armpits, wrists, and between your fingers.
In small children, scabies rashes are commonly seen on the bottoms of feet, on the palms of hands, and on the face, neck, and scalp.
Scabies causes severe itching in these areas, and itching is especially bad at night.
This severe itch leads to scratching, which promotes skin infections of all types.
If you notice the tell-tale scabies rash, or have extreme itching in these common areas, call your doctor immediately.
Your physician will be able to determine if you have scabies or some other skin disorder that causes a rash, and they can help you determine the best course of treatment.
Because skin-to-skin contact must last at least 15 minutes for successful transfer of scabies, sexual contact is generally the most common route for transmission, but not all cases follow this pattern, and some people are more prone to getting scabies than others.
Other risk factors for becoming infected with scabies include:
- Living in overcrowded conditions;
- Immigrating to a new country;
- Inadequate nutrition;
- Poor access to fresh water for hygiene;
- Being homeless;
- Having dementia of any kind.
Treating Scabies Conventionally
It is important that you first receive a correct diagnosis, before treating scabies.
This means looking at your skin with a magnifying glass or examining material from your skin under a microscope to look for burrows, mites, eggs, or waste from the animals (4).
Once a definitive diagnosis is made, then proper treatment options can be considered.
The most common conventional treatment for scabies is topical permethrin cream.
If you have scabies, permethrin is applied to all your skin, not just the affected area, for up to seven days.
Permethrin does not absorb easily into internal tissue and organs, and it’s generally well tolerated by most.
Some experience burning and skin irritation from this medication (5).
An oral treatment for scabies called ivermectin was recently developed.
This option is often used when an outbreak of scabies is noted in particular environments to treat everyone who was exposed.
One single dose of this drug is needed to treat scabies infestation, which is another positive, but it can cause adverse side effects.
The most common of these include nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, dizziness, and headaches.
In about three out of every ten cases, a second dose is needed to eliminate the parasites completely (6).
Recent research has indicated that the use of ivermectin to treat large numbers of people in infected settings could lead to drug resistance in the future.
Caution should be used when administering this drug in such cases (7).
Other treatment methods for scabies involve lindane creams and crotamiton.
In order to ensure full and complete treatment for scabies, patients should be closely monitored for at least four weeks after treatment has ended.
Because some treatments can be difficult and are prone to mistakes, additional medications may be needed.
The most common mistake is application error of creams or lotions, but failing to treat all family members can also lead to reinfection.
In addition, not all treatments are suitable for all people, due to age, pregnancy, weight, immune system suppression, or other factors.
Just as important in treatment is the prevention of the spread of this disease.
In addition to washing all bedding and clothing, it is necessary to clean and vacuum thoroughly if anyone in your house has had scabies.
Even if scabies symptoms are not evident, anyone in close contact with the infected person should be treated.
Treating Scabies Naturally
Many natural treatments can also be effective at treating scabies, helping ease the symptoms caused by scabies, or preventing future outbreaks of this infection.
Here are our favorite home remedies using natural ingredients.
Not only can neem oil kill scabies mites, but it can also prevent them from breeding and growing under your skin.
Neem oil is effective at reducing itching and pain, making it an excellent, natural treatment for scabies.
When mixed with turmeric, neem oil was found to be a highly effective and inexpensive treatment for scabies in India, eliminating nearly all cases of scabies within two weeks.
This treatment also has no adverse side effects or toxic reactions, making it safe to use with almost everyone and for large populations (9).
If you have scabies rash or blisters, clove oil can be effective at drying those out.
Clove oil also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which help prevent the spread of infection.
Clove oil has been shown to be effective at killing scabies mites quickly, comparable to many conventional treatments for this skin disorder.
Apply to the affected area twice per day for at least two weeks.
If someone in your house has scabies, rosemary oil is an excellent option for stopping the infestation of scabies.
Rosemary oil’s benefits also include preventing secondary skin infections caused by scratching and decreasing pain from an infection.
Clove and rosemary oils combined have antimicrobial properties comparable to prescription medications (10).
Tea Tree Oil
Because tea tree oil can treat scabies both on and under your skin, it is an excellent treatment option for scabies.
New research indicates the growing problem of drug resistance among scabies populations, making the search for alternative therapies important.
Tea tree oil’s oxygenated terpenoids could provide some hope for treating scabies, especially in large populations where outbreaks are common (11).
If you have pain associated with your scabies, cayenne pepper can be an excellent, natural treatment option.
The capsaicin found in cayenne can reduce the sensation associated with pain when it is applied to the skin (12).
By desensitizing neurons, capsaicin also relieves itching, another common scabies symptom.
Cayenne may cause irritation or other problems in those with sensitive skin, so be cautious of its use on large areas without first testing your skin.
You can use cayenne in several ways to treat scabies.
The first is to make a paste using cayenne and water, then apply this to any visible burrows you have on your skin.
Alternatively, you can add one cup of cayenne to your bathwater, stay in the water until the water is cold, then thoroughly rinse your whole body.
Be cautious not to get this water in your eyes, mouth, nose, or ears, as it may cause irritation, burning, and stinging.
Tiger balm is frequently used in Asia to treat various skin disorders, as well as provide pain relief from aches and muscle strains.
As an analgesic that reduces inflammation, it can also be used topically to treat scabies.
While the clove oil and camphor in this ointment won’t kill scabies, it will soothe the itching while your infection is being treated with other remedies or conventional medicines.
Anise Seed Oil
Because of its insecticidal properties, anise seed oil can be effective at treating head lice as well as scabies.
Pregnant women should avoid using anise seed oil for this purpose, though (13).
Pure aloe vera gel can be used to soothe itching, as well as kill scabies.
As a natural skin soother, it heals damaged skin, moisturizes, and can be as effective as some prescription medications for treating scabies without unwanted side effects.
Extracted from the Karanja tree, native to many parts of Asia, Karanja oil is known for its insecticidal and antiseptic properties.
When combined with neem oil, it is particularly effective at treating scabies, killing scabies mites, and helping to restore healthy skin.
Sulfur is used commonly in homeopathy to treat a number of problems.
As a natural antiseptic and cleanser, it seems a natural fit for treating scabies.
The ointment made with sulfur has been shown to be effective at curing scabies, with few side effects and low incidence of relapse (14).
The restorative and healing powers of this herb continue to be revealed.
As a well-studied anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial immune booster, turmeric is a logical and potent treatment for scabies (15).
Make a paste to apply to affected areas using turmeric and neem oil for powerful scabies treatment with no side effects.
Sandalwood’s properties also make it an excellent natural treatment for scabies.
Sandalwood nourishes your skin, promoting its health and vitality.
It naturally disinfects, making it helpful if you have developed a secondary infection from scratching, as well.
Sandalwood calms inflammation and redness, providing a cooling sensation to the irritated skin.
Preventing the Spread of Scabies
In order to ensure that scabies does not return, it is important to follow some additional precautions to prevent the spread and reinfestation of the scabies mites.
Here are some excellent reminders about how to prevent the spread of these unwanted visitors:
- Treat Everyone Who May Have Been Exposed
In addition to treating yourself for scabies, it is also important you treat anyone who lives in your house, as well as anyone with whom you’ve had prolonged contact.
If you are using topical treatments, apply them to everyone exposed to the mites.
Talk with your doctor about oral medications and their use for other people in your house.
- Avoid Exposing More Surfaces
If you can, confine your movements to one room or one small area of your home, to cut down on the number of surfaces you touch.
When possible, avoid sitting on fabric-covered furniture, and avoid contact with people and other materials.
When you are unable to wash soft goods, such as clothing, immediately, place them into plastic bags that have been secured tightly.
Mites are not able to live without their food source (your body) for longer than three days.
- Wash Soft Goods
Washing all bedding and any clothing you have worn since your exposure to scabies will be important for preventing reinfection.
Use hot water, and also use the hottest setting possible on your dryer to destroy thoroughly all mites.
When in doubt, wash anything you have touched or with which you have come into contact since your possible infection.
- Vacuum Everything Else
If you can’t put something in the washing machine, be sure you vacuum it.
This includes furniture, carpets, and any surface with which you’ve come into contact.
Be sure to throw your vacuum bag away once you’ve done this.
- Don’t Scratch
While scratching may provide some psychological relief, the actual itching will still be there when you stop.
Plus, scratching creates an opportunity for infections, in addition to spreading the dust mites to other parts of your body and thus causing more problems.
- Lower Your Stress
When you are stressed, you actually experience sensations like itchiness more profoundly.
Lower stress can make your itchy skinless so, lowering your risk of scratching.
Reducing your stress level is therefore important in treating your scabies.
Find activities that are restful for you, and engage in them frequently.
Common stress relievers include reading a book, exercising, walking, yoga, meditation, or spending time outside.
When dealing with scabies, you may experience stress and anxiety over-treating this disorder, so be sure to take care of your emotional health as well as your skin.
- Eat Healthy Foods
When you are infected with a disease like scabies, you want to boost your immune system as much as possible.
Eating a healthy diet full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods will help you fight infection and rid your body of the unwanted mites.
Anti-inflammatories will also relieve the discomfort, itching, and swelling associated with scabies.
Scabies is, unfortunately, a common and uncomfortable problem for many.
There is a multitude of steps you can take to prevent the spread of this skin disease, and should you contract it, there is a variety of natural remedies you can use to get rid of this unwanted parasite.
Scabies is transferred through prolonged contact, usually during sexual intercourse or skin-to-skin contact lasting longer than 15 minutes.
Scabies is common among people who live in close quarters, such as homeless shelters, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, and schools.
Once an outbreak of scabies is detected, it is important to treat everyone who could be affected.
Conventional treatments include oral and topical medications that have some success at killing scabies, but these can sometimes lead to drug resistance in this species.
Natural remedies have a decreased chance of creating drug resistance and may be a better alternative.
Natural treatments for scabies include essential oils, neem oil, tiger balm, cayenne pepper, sandalwood, turmeric, aloe vera, and many more.
While some treatments help calm the symptoms of scabies, others boost your immune system so that it can better fight your infection.
In addition to treating the disease, it is important to rid the area of the mites that cause scabies, so thoroughly cleaning and washing all soft and hard surfaces will be important.
Taking care of yourself by eating well, getting enough rest, and lowering your stress level will also help in the treatment of this disease.