Scabies is one of the severe skin conditions that cause severe itching and rashes. It is a dermatologic condition caused by human mites, Sarcoptes scabiei. Scabies causes rash and itching, which is a result of the body’s allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs and excreta. Scabies parasite infects over 300 million humans worldwide every year. Scabies occurs most frequently in children and young adults, as they can quickly pick up the contagious mites from schools and colleges. But how to get rid of scabies? Anti-itching lotions, antibiotics, etc. are some popular conventional scabies treatment. However, you can also go for home remedies for scabies such as by applying essential oils, borax, apple cider vinegar, etc.
Humans are the primary source of scabies infestation. Contrary to popular belief, scabies does not occur due to animal contact. We will primarily focus on various home remedies for scabies that not only provide relief from the scabies symptoms but also help kill the mites producing scabies. But before everything, let’s first understand a little about scabies.
What causes scabies?
As scabies is a contagious disease, it spreads through mites Sarcoptes scabies. A mite can stay in the human body for 24-72 hours without producing any symptoms. But soon they start burrowing into the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. They start living in these burrows and multiply by laying eggs. (1)
Coming in close physical contact with the infected person, sharing clothing or bedding can spread the scabies mites. Mites usually migrate and hatch in skin folds where they have isolation.
The area where mites commonly form burrows is in between the fingers and around fingernails. They can also migrate to armpits, waist, inner parts of the wrists, elbow and soles of the feet.
The sexually transmitted mites are commonly seen in genitalia, breasts and buttocks. The mites can also cause burrows in other body areas. Infants and young children experience infestation in the scalp, face, neck, palm and sole.
What are the symptoms of scabies?
- Itching is the most common scabies symptoms. The itching usually worsens during the night time.
- A lumpy red rash with peeling skin appears on the stomach, buttock, armpits and hands.
- Burrow tracks are short and have silver lines with a black dot at the end. This forms when the mite burrows into the skin, most commonly found in skin folds.
- Patches of scaly skin can be seen, and blisters may also be present.
- Open sores can occur when the infected person scratches the skin. It can lead to impetigo, caused by secondary bacterial infection at the site.
- Thick crusts can appear in cases of a severe form of scabies also known as Norwegian scabies. People infected with this dermatologic condition exhibit dull, grey and crumbling crust. (2)
Types of scabies lesion
Scabies rash can either be with crusted or non-crusted skin lesions. Persons with crusted scabies have thick crusting on the skin that contains a large number of scabies mites and eggs. Persons with crusted scabies should receive quick and aggressive medical treatment for their infestation to prevent outbreaks of scabies.
The mites in crusted scabies are not more virulent than in non-crusted scabies. However, they are more in numbers, and hence crusted scabies are more contagious to other persons.
Who are at risk?
Immunocompromised, elderly, and debilitated persons are at a higher risk for acquiring mites. Scabies spread through direct skin-to-skin contact and can spread quickly through intimate contact.
People with crusted scabies can transmit scabies indirectly by shedding mites. School going kids and healthcare personnel can quickly pick up these parasites.
How to prevent scabies?
Avoid wearing same clothing twice without cleaning, add disinfectant to wash clothes. Do not share items of personal use, like clothing, hairbrushes, towels or shoes.
Use precautions when visiting a nursing home, hospitals. Wash hands thoroughly after a visit. Carpet cleaning, pest control, furniture cleaning should be done on schedule. School kids should be checked for any possible infestation by doing a thorough body check.
Conventional scabies treatment
Antihistamines, anti-itching lotions, antibiotics, and steroid creams might be prescribed to offer relief from scabies symptoms. Topical medications such as permethrin crotamiton cream, or lindane lotion, 25 percent benzyl benzoate lotion, sulfur ointment are the ones prescribed for scabies.(3)
Ivermectin, an oral medication, is prescribed for people who are immunocompromised, or those with crusted scabies.
Home remedies for scabies
1. Neem oil
Neem oil is one of the best home remedies for scabies treatment. It is also an age-old remedy. Neem oil is a potent pesticide and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. The active ingredient in neem, Azadirachtin, ceases the reproductive cycle of the mites.
It also repels the mites and kills them by hindering their ability to feed. Soak neem oil in a cotton ball and apply it all over the crusts and borrow tracks before the shower. Wash it later with lukewarm water.(4)
2. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper has capsaicin as its active ingredient. Cayenne pepper reduces the pain and numbs the area inflamed due to crusts. Mix cayenne pepper with lukewarm water to make a paste. You can apply this paste directly to the burrows on your skin.
Always be very cautious while using cayenne pepper as it can easily enter the eyes and nose and can also cause an unpleasant burning sensation.
3. Tea tree oil
Tea Tree oil has antimicrobial and inflammatory properties owing to its active ingredient terpinen-4-ol. The active component can kill the mites and speed up the healing process, relieving the swelling and pain.(5)
Mix ten drops of tea-tree oil in one ounce of carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil. Apply the mixture on all over the wound with the help of cotton ball. Alternatively, you can also add few drops of tea tree oil in your bathing water and bathe, till the symptoms disappear.
Turmeric is a potent antiseptic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory herb. This is one of the most powerful and ancient home remedies for scabies treatment. Mix one tablespoon of turmeric powder with lemon juice to make a thick paste.
Apply the paste to the affected skin, covering the burrows. Leave it for an hour and wash with lukewarm water.
Pennyroyal oil is an essential oil which has proven to be useful in the treatment of scabies. The active ingredient, pulegone, in the oil gets metabolised to form menthofuran in the body. Menthofuran is toxic to the mites.
Add a few drops of pennyroyal oil in a cup of water. Soak a cotton ball in this solution and apply it on the affected area several times a day.
6. Clove oil
Clove oil anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The active ingredient, eugenol, present in clove oil acts on the mites affecting its feeding pattern. Always dilute clove oil in any carrier oil before using it on your body.
You can either mix it with coconut oil or olive oil for ease of application. Apply it on the affected skin for at least thirty minutes before washing it off.
7. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is acidic owing to its main component acetic acid. It changes the pH of skin, making it unfavourable for the mite to survive. Apple cider can prove to be one of the best home remedies for scabies treatment.
Mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water (1 ounce) thoroughly in a bowl. Soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and apply directly to the affected skin. Leave it for ten to fifteen minutes and rinse it off with lukewarm water.
Borax is a naturally-occurring mineral with anti-inflammatory, insecticidal, virucidal, and fungicidal properties. Borax, when used with hydrogen peroxide, gives best results. Add 2 cups of borax and 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide in lukewarm bathing water. Bath with this water twice a day till symptoms subside.
9. Ylang ylang
Ylang ylang is an essential oil used to prevent infestation of scabies. Ylang ylang oil decreases pain associated with scabies crusting and prevents the development of secondary infections. Add few drops of ylang-ylang oil to bath water every day till the symptoms are alleviated.
10. Anise seed oil
Anise seed oil has potent insecticidal and antibacterial properties. The active ingredient anethol found in the oil shows a significant inhibitory effect against the mites. Anise oil also provides an analgesic effect on the rashes.
Mix few drops of anise seed oil to coconut oil and massage on the rashes and burrows. Repeat every day till the inflammation and itching ceases entirely.
Final words on how to get rid of scabies
Scabies can cause open sores if not attended at the right time. The mites can contaminate the bedding, clothes, carpets, furniture and cause recurrent outbreaks. It is imperative to disinfect all the personal belongings to stop the spread of the mites.
People with disabilities, debilitating diseases should opt for regular checkups to minimise the risk of scabies. Maintain proper hygiene and take daily showers. Inspect every part of the body weekly and be consistent with the dermatologists. And lastly, follow above-mentioned home remedies for scabies treatment.