Can you get scabies from hiking?
No, you cannot get scabies from hiking. Some of the wrong beliefs that people have is that scabies is spread by air, water or through contact with animals. All of these are wrong. Scabies can only be contracted when an unaffected person comes in close and prolonged contact with an affected person and not from hiking. An insect—mite—is responsible for the contraction of the disease by an unaffected individual.
How do mites cause scabies?
Mites are eight-legged insects that are adapted for crawling and burrowing. Once they come in contact with the skin of an unaffected individual, they immediately cause scabies.
Below is a detailed description of how they operate.
- An adult female mite crawls on to the skin of an unaffected individual and then, uses its mouthpart to burrow deep into the skin tissue of an individual.
- After burrowing deep enough, it begins to lay its egg. Most female mites lay about two eggs per day. Some others lay about three though. Either way, the laying of eggs continues for a period of a month.
- The eggs begin to hatch three to four days after they have been laid. They hatch into the mite larvae.
- The larvae crawl out of the burrowed tunnels and make their way to the surface of the skin.
- On getting to the skin surface, they begin to make their way down again. This time, their destination is the skin follicle. At the end of these follicles are pouches that house these larvae.
- The larvae changes into the mite nymph on getting to the pouch.
- The nymph crawl back out as a mature mite. These mites live at the superficial surface of the skin for as long as two months. They usually feed off the skin peels of the affected individuals.
- At some point, the adult nymph can live off the host. So, it crawls on to the materials surrounding the affected individual. The materials could be the bed sheets, pillow cases, clothes, jewellery, etc.
The above list describes how the mites mature. Let’s now see how the body reacts once the mites latch on the skin.
- The body has a system known as the immune system that helps to fight against microbes and other strange entities that find their way into the body.
In this scenario, the strange entities are the eggs laid in the skin by the mites.
- The immune system spurs the occurrence of an allergic response to the eggs, and the first thing you notice is an intense itching.
Another immune response is the appearance of rashes on the skin surface. These immune responses may not come until several weeks after exposure.
- If the individual is having a second-time exposure, he or she would notice the symptoms quicker. The reason is because the body would have prepared itself after the first time exposure.
So, the second time the eggs appear, it detects it almost immediately.
- The affected person responds to the severe itching by scratching hard against the affected spot.
- The scratching of the skin leads to the spot turning red. It also causes the formation of blisters and sores on that area of skin.
- The sores lead to the compromise of the defence layer of the skin. As a result, it is prone to microbe attack. Examples of such microbes include bacteria and fungi.
- If the sores aren’t treated on time, there could be secondary infection caused by the new microbes. The scabies could even worsen to the crusted form.
Here, you’d find several skin crusts that bear mites and their eggs. The crusted form is rare and would only take occurrence when an individual has his or her immune system weakened by the following conditions;
- Down syndrome
- Prolonged use of immunosuppressant
- Another symptom is the appearance of bump clusters on the skin.
The symptoms listed above are usually noted in the following parts of the body;
- Areola of the brea$t
- Beneath the nails
Treatment for scabies in humans
Lastly, let’s study the treatment options for scabies.
Most times, the physicians would recommend that drugs that contain active ingredients like Permethrin, benzyl benzoate, sulphur ointment, etc should be used for the treatment of scabies.
In times when the case is very severe, the use of oral drugs like Ivermectin is recommended.
When using these drugs, ensure that you employ any of the tips listed below;
1. The skin usually assumes a very thick form after a mite infestation. That is why it is recommended that the affected person rubs on keratolytic creams on his or her body.
These creams work in softening the plaques on the skin. Once the plaques are softened, the skin would be able to absorb the medication better.
2. The affected person is also advised to get rid of the scale-like patches that form across the skin.
These patches toughen up the outermost layer of the skin and make it hard for the medications to be absorbed readily.
3. The affected person should be on medication until the mite infestation is entirely gone. Most times, because of the itching issue, the medication could go on for a month or two.
4. The affected person should ensure that he or she washes the clothes and other materials that he or she used during the period of infestation in order to prevent the occurrence of another infestation.
5. If the material cannot be washed, it should be sealed in air-tight sheaths or containers for days, so that the mites can die.