Scabies is a common and highly contagious skin condition caused by a mite, which is a bit like a tiny insect. The mite is a parasite, meaning that it lives off a host (that's you!) with no benefit to the host. These mites are microscopic, eight-legged creatures with round bodies that have infested humans and caused misery for around 2,500 years. A female mite burrows into the outer layer of skin to lay her eggs. When the larvae hatch and grow into mites, the skin produces an allergic reaction and intense itching develops (usually between a two and six weeks after infestation), resulting in a rash of raised, pinkish-red spots that appear on the body and limbs. Scabies can affect people of any age but is most common in children and young adults.
How to Avoid
Scabies is spread by close physical contact, especially during sexual contact (or in overcrowded living conditions). The only way to avoid scabies for sure is to avoid close physical or sexual contact with sufferers. If you experience any symptoms, go to see your doctor as soon as you can.
You cannot simply wash scabies away, and your personal hygiene has very little impact on the infestation. However, prescription or over-the-counter creams and lotions are available. Check with your GP first because there are some more serious skin conditions that can look a lot like scabies. Best to get these ruled out by the doctor, who can then advise on the best way to treat you.