We’ve all heard of bed bugs lately. These nasty little bloodsuckers have been in the news for 5 years now, causing havoc in hotels and homes all across the nation. As disgusting, expensive and a severe pain in butt these creatures are, the silver lining is, they , ( so far ), have not been proven to spread any diseases. Yes they can cause allergic reactions but the symptoms are relatively benign unless you have an anaphylactic reaction.
Scabies on the other hand, can be a real danger to public health . The difference between scabies and bed bugs is that bedbugs infest your home and scabies infest YOU !
A scabies mite is an insect about 3 millimeters long, that’s small, small enough so visual inspection is almost useless. You get scabies by having intimate contact with a person or surface which has been infected. The female scabies mite burrows under the first few layers of you skin and begins to tunnel and lay eggs.
Curing scabies can be problematic, some people experience resistant infections, secondary infections from the intense itching associated with scabies, or reactions to the scabicides used in treating the infection. The scabicides, medicine to cure scabies, are basically the same chemical , permethrin, used in killing bed bugs, only you spread it on you not your mattress. Granted the concentrations of this insecticide are much lower but still, this is a bug poison make no mistake. There are other less toxic treatments but resistance to these have been reported.
With an estimated one million cases of scabies occurring in the USA yearly, a scabies infection is not as rare as it was just a few years ago. International travel, higher population densities in hospitals, prisons and nursing homes, relaxed hospitality standards and poor laundering frequencies in hotels, can all contribute to higher scabies rates of infection.
According to the MassGeneral Hospital for Children, which is a primary pediatric teaching site for the Harvard Medical School, “ Outbreaks of scabies have been seen in adolescents who are not sexually active. For example, outbreaks have been seen where groups of teens slept in a hotel, motel or hostel where sanitation was not optimal. It is possible that they acquired the scabies mite from blankets or sheets that were not changed between hotel guests.”
Avoiding scabies is relatively simple.
- Don’t have contact with an infected person.
- Don’t have contact with items such as hotel bedding which have had contact with infected persons.
How do you protect yourself from unseen infestations ? Aside from intimate contact with an infected person, barrier methods like an Allersac travel sheet will do the trick when it comes to hotel beds. Just make sure that which ever travelsheet you choose, make sure it is HOT water washable AND can be dried on a high heat setting to kill all the scabies mites.
On the bright side, scabies mites are nowhere as hardy as bed bugs and will only live for 3 -4 days when not on a human body. African Americans are much less likely to get scabies, no one knows why yet. Scabies in bedding are easy to kill and washing in hot water and drying on a high heat cycle will do the trick, just be sure to clean ALL items or store unwashable items for at least a week.