Although just about anyone, at any time has the potential to get scabies, there are specific groups of people that are at greater risk. There are also certain behaviors that can put you at greater risk of contracting scabies. Although sometimes there are circumstances beyond your control that can put you into one of these groups, being aware of this might help you avoid scabies, or failing that, make it possible for you to identify and treat them early on.
Groups at Risk
One of the largest and most susceptible groups is that comprised of infants and small children. In general, children are more likely to have vulnerable immune systems. In addition, they can often be placed in situations where they are in close proximity to others who might be carriers. Children in day care and school classrooms are exposed to any number of “bugs” and scabies is just one of many they might come into contact with. Children in developing countries are the most vulnerable of all, since they often lack adequate nutrition, hygiene and medical care.
The elderly are also at greater risk than the general population. Their immune systems tend to be weaker, they might be suffering from other illnesses that make them vulnerable to parasitic infestations and skin conditions, and adult foster homes and care centers are ideal environments in which scabies can spread.
Another group at high risk is those whose immune systems are already compromised. Those suffering from multiple sclerosis, lupus, Grave’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis or HIV are much more likely to contract any number of conditions, and have a much harder time getting rid of them. They often don’t respond to treatment, need multiple treatment cycles, or need to try a larger variety of remedies before finally seeing some results.
Lastly, anyone who has to live in an institutional setting is at a higher risk of getting scabies. Those in any type of long-term care, assisted living, mental hospital or prison are more likely to get any number of communicable diseases. By the same token, people living in otherwise crowded conditions, especially in the developing world are at similar risk.
Bottom line; if you are very young or old, have a compromised immune system, or live in very close contact with many other people, you are at a much higher risk of getting scabies.
Unlike many other communicable diseases, there is no specific behavior that guarantees you will get scabies. By the same token, there is no specific behavior you can stop that can guarantee you won’t get scabies. There are however, a few behaviors that will make it easier for you to get scabies from someone who is carrying it.
One behavior that can make it easier to get scabies is being sexually active, especially with more than one partner. While scabies is not a sexually transmitted disease, the skin-to-skin contact of sexual activity can increase the odds of getting scabies from someone who is carrying it. A larger number of partners simply increase the odds that you will run into someone who has it. Since most first-time scabies sufferers can go a number of weeks before displaying any symptoms, it can be impossible to tell who can pass it on to you. There really is no way to mitigate this risk without curtailing the number of sexual partners you have.
Although it may not seem like a choice for some, working in a very crowded or institutional environment can increase the risk of contracting scabies. Just as those who live in care centers and prisons are more likely to get scabies, so are the staff who works there. If you get sick easily, have allergies or very sensitive skin, you might seriously consider a different line of work, rather than risk constantly exposing yourself to any number of communicable conditions.
Another behavior that can increase the risk of contracting scabies can be sharing bed linens and towels. Scabies mites can live without a human host for about 36 hours, and they often do so in beds and bathrooms where there are fabrics where they can hide. The more people you have sharing a bed or bathroom, the greater the chances of one person spreading scabies to everyone else. If you share a bed, be sure to wash the sheets often, and make sure every household member has their own towel. Make sure that clothes and linens are washed often. Cleanliness isn’t a guarantee of scabies prevention, but being scrupulous about it can help keep it from spreading, even if one family member gets it.
While you may not be able to avoid belonging to a high-risk group, just knowing that you belong to the group can help you do your best to avoid getting scabies, or seeking treatment as soon as you think you might have it, so you can start getting better as soon as possible.
Certain groups, like children, the elderly and those with immune disorders are more susceptible to scabies. There are also some behaviors that create a higher risk.