Even though generally not a serious condition, there is no doubt that scabies is extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable. For this reason alone, it would seem that prevention would be ideal. Unfortunately, this can be difficult, mostly because it is very difficult to tell who is carrying the scabies mites if they aren’t showing symptoms. Still, there are a few things you can do to minimize the chances of getting scabies.
Contact with Others
Since scabies is primarily contracted through direct contact with others, avoiding contact with those you think could be carrying it is paramount. Ideally, when someone knows they have scabies, they stay home until their symptoms go away, so they don’t infect others. In reality however, those getting scabies for the first time may not know they have it for several weeks. Once the mites start burrowing in your skin, it can take about two weeks for your skin to develop an allergic reaction, so until the itching starts, you may not know that anything is amiss.
If you have reason to believe that you have been exposed to scabies, go to the doctor so you can get tested. A simple skin scraping under a microscope can show scabies mites, even in the early stages of the condition. Ideally, you can get treated before the itching ever starts. Unfortunately, very few are aware when they’ve been exposed, so the best you can do is get treatment as soon as you know.
In general, you can do well to avoid very crowded conditions if you don’t want to get scabies. If courtesy dictates a handshake with someone, don’t worry about that; since scabies mites can’t fly or jump and travel very slowly, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll travel to your hand during a brief handshake. If you can, avoid sitting or standing around a lot of people, like in elevators or public transportation. Avoid sharing items like towels and hairbrushes.
Scabies is also frequently transmitted between sexual partners, so it’s a good idea to limit the number of those, to decrease the odds of getting it. In addition, make sure that sexual encounters take place between freshly laundered sheets, and don’t hesitate to wash those sheets frequently. Just be aware that skin-to-skin contact is the easiest way for scabies to spread, and sexual contact helps create those ideal conditions.
Hygiene and Cleanliness
If you live in a house with multiple inhabitants, try to avoid sharing bed sheets, towels and clothes. Wash all items frequently and in water as hot as you can. Even though scabies can live and be passed on in very clean homes, you can do everything in your power to make the environment inhospitable to them.
Since you often won’t know if you have scabies until you’ve already had the chance to pass it on, acting quickly can help mitigate the damage. Once you’ve been diagnosed, make sure that everyone in your household or with who you’ve been in close contact gets treatment as well. While treatment is going on, be sure to clean your house thoroughly. Don’t just wash the bedding, towels and clothes. Steam clean the carpets and upholstery and wash the curtains. Try to think of anywhere a scabies mite would like to hide and clean it. Even though you might get scabies once, quick action can keep you from passing it on, or from ever getting it again.
Probably the most important step you can take in scabies prevention is to act quickly if you suspect you have it. Some people hesitate to go to the doctor because they are embarrassed, thinking it is considered a sexually transmitted disease, or will be seen as a result of poor hygiene. The truth is, just about anyone, no matter how clean or well-behaved can get scabies if they unwittingly come into contact with a carrier. Keep in mind that medical professionals have probably seen many other cases and will not judge you for accidentally contracting something fairly common.
Not seeking treatment only means that you drag out the discomfort and the likelihood that you will pass it on to your loved ones, making the situation more embarrassing and unpleasant in the long run. If you can get treatment as soon as you spot the symptoms, there is a good chance you will be completely rid of the scabies within a week or two. If you take the necessary steps to sanitize your surroundings, the chances of spreading diminish substantially.
Aside from avoiding known carriers, you can avoid situations where you will be in close contact with large numbers of people, but the odds are that if you get scabies, you’ll get it from someone close to you. There is no cause for shame or embarrassment; just be sure to get treated quickly, and hopefully you will not have to deal with scabies again.
It is difficult to prevent getting scabies, but active avoidance of known carriers and quick treatment of symptoms can mitigate the discomfort.