The mite which causes scabies is called Sarcoptes Scabiei. It burrows into the skin, especially round the hands, feet and male genitalia. It does not usually affect the head and neck, although it may do in infants. The mite may be passed easily by close contact with other people and so the whole family should be treated at the same time and schools should be made aware.
Diagnosis is often made clearer because more than one family member has an itchy rash. Sometimes burrows can be seen, especially near to the wrists. The doctor may sometimes be able to remove a mite from a burrow in order to look at it under magnification. The diagnosis can be difficult because the rash can look like other itchy conditions e.g. eczema.
The treatment of choice is Permethrin, in view of its relative safety, ease of application and as it tends not to irritate the skin. This should be left on for at least eight hours.
Other treatments include Benzyl Benzoate which is left on for 24 hours and repeated two or three times, and Malathion which is also left on for 24 hours.
The treatment kills the mites, but their bodies are still in the skin and so the itch continues for about two weeks after treatment. This does not mean that the treatment hasn't worked, it is just that you are allergic to the mite's body and have to wait for your body to break this down. You can take antihistamine tablets for the itching.