Don't Panic! Scabies-Free Here...
Posted in the Scabies Forum
#1 May 1, 2013
So, I've been reading the discussions on this website since mid-March of this year (2013) and knew that I wanted to come on here at some point and share my own story.
I hope that my post will help people, especially those who are visiting this website for the first time, because I do believe there are a lot of alarmists on this site and a lot of misleading and potentially harmful treatments being touted on here as miracles.
So: take a breath. Put on some good, relaxing music. Don't panic.
My brush with scabies began back in February '13. I'm a 27 year-old Caucasian male and have very sensitive skin in general (as does my whole family, we have very fair Irish skin) and so winter is always a little tough for me. I tend to get some mild eczema and have had bouts of mild folliculitis in the past (usually manifests as little red dots on my thighs that ebb and flow). This past winter, however, seemed especially hard: I was itching like crazy and it seemed I could never have enough moisturizer, lip balm, etc.
Later, after learning about the signs and symptoms of scabies, I realized that my itching areas were all the textbook trouble spots (scrotum, waistline, webbing between fingers and toes, elbows, armpits, back of knees, thighs). The itching never got to the unbearable point, but I would lay in bed at night and vigorously rake my nails over my skin for a good 30 seconds at a time until I found relief.
Eventually, I noticed little bumps between my fingers on my left hand and started doing web research - oh, boy. Scabies came up almost immediately, but because my symptoms didn't look anything like the pictures online (which are all, I gather, advanced cases) I put it out of my mind. Within a few days, though, I noticed two faint white/silvery squiggly lines on my wrist and palm* and I thought, "Well, that looks like a very underdeveloped or baby-version of the burrows I'm seeing online" and I really started to get freaked out.**
*Yes, I had a burrow on my palm. I know this is typically only a symptom for babies/infants/toddlers, but I had a burrow on my palm. I know, bizarre.
**The number one reason for my freak-out? All my itchiness had nearly disappeared. If I thought about possibly having scabies, it came back (psychosomatic), but it generally had gone away. So, I was torn: did I really have it or not?
I went to see my doctor (general practitioner) and told her my concerns about scabies. She had treated it once before, for an elderly couple, but their case was so advanced & severe, that she couldn't for certain say that I had it, given how mild my symptoms were. She gave me two prescriptions, one for the treatment/relief of eczema and the other for Elimite/Permethrin.
Immediately, my family and I launched into crisis mode (I travel a lot for work and stay with my mother and step-father when in Philly, where I was for the month).
Here's what we did:
We (all three of us: mom, step-dad, and I) filled prescriptions for Elimite. They never showed any symptoms, yet we all got treated, like everyone recommends.
We took all of our clothes, even those that had been sitting in the closet/drawers and they were either taken to the basement to be washed (more on that in a bit) or bagged in garbage bags and put in the garage.
The first night, we stripped our beds, vacuumed our house completely, vacuumed our bedroom floors (our house is all hardwood, no carpets), and vacuumed all bedroom furniture (including our mattress, box spring, and bedframe, on all sides).
All the bedding was put in the washer on the hottest setting possible, with both detergent and Borax, then dried for 90 minutes on hottest setting.
After doing all that, we showered, let our bodies cool down, then applied the Permethrin all over, from chin down (everyone also did their ears and a light coating on cheeks/forehead/hair line. We got into our fresh, clean beds.
Since: May 13
#2 May 1, 2013
Over the next week, we made our way through the piles of clothes (all washed just like the bedding: washer & dryer both on hottest setting, with Borax added alongside the detergent).
We also vacuumed our beds (all 6 sides of mattress & box spring, as well as the bedframe) every single day.
We had the car cleaned/vacuumed.
I wore rubber gloves when handling anything, including a steering wheel. We all sat on towels in the car, which were then immediately taken out and washed after we got back to the house.
Bedding was washed every day, too.
When it came time to do the next Permethrin treatment (we all agreed on doing it 6 days after the first application), we majorly lucked out, because I had made a dermatologist appointment months prior for that exact day. I had never seen a derm before, so I was going in for a body scan (for moles and the like), but as luck would have it, I would be able to ask for a skin scraping.
Here's where it gets interesting: I went in, told the doctor that I had already done my first treatment of Permethrin for scabies and that I wanted to check in with her before I did the second application that night. The little bumps were still on my hands and what I though were burrows were still visible.
She took one look at me and said, "Yeah, you don't have scabies."
Shocked, I explained all that I had been doing: the vast, time-consuming amounts of cleaning, vacuuming etc. Living in self-inflicted quarantine all week. The itching that had been so severe. Yadda-yadda. Nevertheless, she was dubious at best.
I convinced her, however, to do a skin scraping regardless. She did, on one of the possible burrows and on one of the bumps and took them on slides into the adjacent room to look under a microscope.
Two minutes later, she comes in looking very surprised: "Well, you have scabies."
I can't tell you how validated I felt: everyone I had told (close friends, my sister, her husband who's a doctor) thought I had been crazy to treat myself, but now I had the proof.
The dermatologist told me she had never seen a case so mild or caught so early.
("You must be very in tune with your body to have been able to tell")
Everything she had scraped off was already dead, so she was convinced the first treatment had worked. Nevertheless, she obviously thought it was smart to go ahead and do the second treatment.
She also said she personally believed people went way-overboard on treatment, especially on cleaning. She said she knew it was tough, but it was always best to start with doing exactly what a doctor recommends, and then go from there if the treatment doesn't work, because if you jump the gun, you can start going down a whole other road of skin problems from over-treatment that look exactly like scabies symptoms.
Needless to say, I went home, did the second treatment that night, continued cleaning bedding and vacuuming my mattress, box spring, and bedframe every day for another 3 days and then returned to normal.
I've since returned to my dermatologist three times. I had to have two suspicious-looking moles removed (tests came back fine) a week after the second treatment, so she was able to confirm with me that the treatments seemed to have worked.
I went back again a week later for a rash that suddenly appeared after spending the day in the woods on a paintball excursion. I was nervous it was the scabies again, but because of the onset (skin was perfectly clear in the morning, blistery and red within an hour of being in the woods) she assured me it was probably a plant I had brushed up against and gave me a cream that got rid of the rash in 3 days.
Today, I went it to have my stitches taken out from my mole removal and she was able to confirm for a second time (5 weeks after my second Permethrin treatment) that I show no signs or symptoms of a current scabies infestation.
...still more to come...
Since: May 13
#3 May 1, 2013
So, I have a lot of thoughts on this whole ordeal.
Yes, scabies is a rough time. I hated thinking about bugs burrowing under my skin. Was it the worst, most horrible experience of my life? Not even close.
I think if you keep calm and think clearly, logic will start to take over. The scabies mite is not indestructible. It is not fast. It cannot jump. It cannot survive for long off a human host and cannot survive extreme temperatures. This makes elimination at least logically possible, if not simple.
It takes patience. Just be patient.
Here's a list of things I did NOT do, ever:
Use sulphur-based products.
Use tea tree oil.
Take a bleach bath (please don't do this to your skin).
Use diatomaceous earth.
Throw anything away.
Pick at my skin or try and remove scabies mites, eggs, or burrows from my skin.
I followed my doctor's orders, the CDC website, WebMD, Wikipedia, Johns Hopkins website, etc., etc., etc.- all the sources I knew to be mainstream-accepted as pretty knowledgeable.
I used the Permethrin cream twice, all over my body, 6 days apart, from the chin down, with some extra on my cheeks/foreheard/hairline/ears . The first time, I left it on for 14 hours, the second time 16 hours (which was a mistake, I meant to get it off sooner, but overslept, hehe)
I cleaned every day, but only with a vacuum, Lysol wipes for my leather desk chair, Borax for laundry, and Clorox for my bathroom.
I know many people on here claim to have scabies for years. Or claim to have scabies that are resistant to Permethrin. Or claim that the only thing that will work is sulphur (or tea tree oil. or Ivermectin. or a combination of all of these or something else, yadda-yadda).
I am not here to tell those people they are wrong. There probably are people who get reinfestations from their environments. There probably are cases (especially in Australia, from what I've read) where the scabies have grown natural defenses against Permethrin creams and respond better to Ivermectin or some other medication. And there are many, many people that choose to go an all-natural route, as opposed to using what is essentially a pesticide for your body.
However, all I know is what I experienced.
I am scabies-free.
This much is crystal-clear to me. I don't itch, I don't have symptoms, I've been cleared by my doctor multiple times. It has been 5 weeks since my last treatment. Permethrin worked. End of story.
Now, I have a feeling the circumstances surrounding my story made this basic treatment a lot more effective:
This affected three people, all adults: myself, my mother, and my step-father.
We have no pets.
We have no carpets.
I seem to have caught it extremely early, based on the surprise of my dermatologist.
My mom and step-father are retired and I work month-to-month and was on a break, so we were able to not leave the house, really, for two weeks.
I think I really lucked out.
That said, be ready for some post-scabies AND post-Permethrin symptoms if you go this route.
IMMEDIATELY after my second treatment (like, the morning after I applied, as I was going to wash it off) I had broken out in a violent rash all over my stomach that hadn't been there the day previously. Don't know if this was scabies mites dying or a reaction to the cream - I expect it was the latter. This stuff is poison and not only will it leave your skin recovering for weeks afterwards (so, SO dry!!!), but the effect of the scabies will still be leaving your body. Expect your skin to feel "off" for a while. Don't panic.
And lastly, please don't go down the rabbit hole on these forums. There are a lot of horror stories here. I'm not saying they lack truth (although I suspect this website, like all others, has its trolls that come on here to spread fear), but just know that just because one person has a-hell-of-a-time with scabies, DOES NOT mean you will, too.
Breathe. Don't panic.
...final thoughts below...
Since: May 13
#4 May 1, 2013
(I meant to say, way back in my first, original post that when I got home from my first appointment with my general practitioner, I was still not convinced I should do the Permethrin treatment.
However: I found info online for the ink test, which I did on myself, and the results were exactly what they say will happen if you do have burrows. This is what convinced me to go ahead with the Elimite/Permethrin, as my doctor wasn't totally convinced and urged me to at least wait a bit to see if my symptoms changed.)
Finally, I just want to say that there are a few users on this site that really made me feel terrible. I know it can be frustrating to go through this disgusting, inconvenient, hard-to-kill infestation, but there was one post I read that gave me a lot of Hope (about how Permethrin totally worked and they got rid of scabies with hardly any effort at all) and one user, who's on here a lot (or at least used to be) and claims to have had scabies for years, responded with this one line (paraphrased, below):
"Permethrin doesn't work. Your story is bullsh*t. You still have scabies."
Please, please, PLEASE. Even if you're battling scabies for the 50th year in a row, even if you're covered from head-to-toe with Norwegian scabies in a hospital room somewhere: know that your words affect the people that read this site. I wanted to get on here a lot earlier and write to this person directly, but decided to wait until I knew I had passed my own all-clear from my doctor. Now that I have, I don't feel the same need to confront this user directly, but it's still distressing to me that a fellow human being and sufferer in this horrible affliction would be so needlessly careless with their words.
I hope this post helps people coming on here for the first time, the second time, the 100th time, whatever. I am not a troll, have never posted before because I didn't want to jinx my recovery. Everything I've said is true and factual.
If you have any questions, feel free to respond below and I'll do my best to answer them when I can.
Thanks for reading!
And breathe. Don't panic.:)
Since: May 13
#5 May 1, 2013
I have no idea where I would have caught scabies - or rather, there are a lot of options:
I work in the theatre, very intimately (physical contact), with a lot of people.
I also house/dog/babysit in many different homes, where I sleep in guest beds, etc.
I'm also sexually active and had a few partners in the months prior to positively diagnosing my scabies.
It could have been any number of these. I have yet to revisit any places I had been during the time I could have been infected and haven't slept with anyone since being treated.
Since: May 13
#6 May 1, 2013
Oh, and one final-final-final thought:
As for my genital area, I never had any symptoms on the head of my pen*s. I am an uncircumcised male, though, and I believe this could have prevented the scabies mites from accessing the glans. Very glad of this.
#7 May 1, 2013
Glad your cured! I hope you never have to deal with this again. Do you still itch? Or get random bumps because of post scabies?
Since: May 13
#8 May 5, 2013
I do still itch, occasionally - though not nearly with the same intensity as before.
People make scabies itching sound unbearable - it was never that for me. So, if most people (on a scale of 1-10 for itchiness) experience an 8-10 of itchiness with scabies, mine was around a 6 or 7 - really frustrating and hard to appease, but not all-consuming.
Now, after having treated, I'd say I'm generally a 0-1 throughout the day, with an occasional 3 or 4 that goes away right after I scratch. Strangely, it's not really where my scabies symptoms were. For example, I had a lot of my itchiness focused around my wrists - now, when I do itch, it's more along my forearm.
I have had some random spots appear - but I also have a highly physical job and seem to always have little spots, scrapes, cuts, and bruises on my skin. I suppose it's just that I notice them more now, because I've been conditioned to keep an eye out for scabies.
#9 May 5, 2013
Mites will pass other infections to you while you have the mite infection. Once the mite infection is gone your are left with possible bacterial, fungal,viral or protozoa infections that have to also be treated. The itching is a histamine reaction from your immune system trying to deal with these other infections. When your immune system manages to kill some of these internal infections then the dead pathogens release toxins and that causes localized inflamation and a histamine reaction so you then get the itching.
Mites also carry many of the infections that are associated with ticks that spread Lyme disease. The symptoms of these infections can be widely varied.
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