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Battling Scabies in the Wintertime

By December 28, 2015Aging in Place

People get itchy in the winter. That’s fairly common; sometimes from a wool sweater or dry skin. However, if the itchiness is intense and occurs at night, it may be something more than just irritating fabric or dry, cold air. It could be a condition called scabies. Scabies affects over 300 million people worldwide and can strike people of any age.

The biggest problem with scabies is that it often goes misdiagnosed because the symptoms mimic many other skin diseases. Complicating the diagnosis of scabies is the fact that symptoms don’t appear until six to eight weeks after a person has attracted the microscopic arthropods that cause it. The problem inherent in scabies among the elderly is that it is commonly misdiagnosed as senile pruritus; itching caused by degenerative changes in aged skin.Any senior with intense itching should not discount scabies as the cause of the issue. If a family member reports similar symptoms as well, it will very likely be scabies..

When one has scabies, pimples and sores will appear from scratching and one or more mites may burrow into the skin and lay eggs. The scabies mite favors certain sites of the body, such as generally warm areas of the body or places where clothing is tight. This means between fingers and under nails, in folds of the wrist, knees, or arms, the buttocks, the belt line, and the groin. .

To treat these mites, patients and anyone close to them must adamantly adhere to directions for medical treatment. Scabies is easily cured but requires that everyone in the household, as well as the person who has contracted the disease, is treated at the same time. All bedding, towels, and clothing must be washed in hot water and dried at a high heat, or dry-cleaned.The usual treatment is a 5 percent permethrin cream applied to cool, dry skin, all the way from the neck to the bottom of the feet. .

These mites cannot fly or jump, but can crawl 2.5 centimeters per minute on warm skin. Apply the cream everywhere, it’s important not to miss any spot on the body. Leaving the cream on for 8 to 14 hours, and another application a week later should do the trick. Even after a person is rid of the mites, and the eggs, itching can continue for a period of up to four weeks. .

Scabies has become a particular issue among the elderly who live in nursing homes, or assisted-care and extended-care facilities. It spreads easily among the attendants, and will then spread to other residents. Taking a shower soon after contact with scabies may wash them away just fine, but further treatment may be necessary. Scabies attacks are not in any way a symptom of poor hygiene, but they must be treated appropriately to prevent another attack. .

With the stresses already abound during the holidays, let’s not add another problem to the list!

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