Hi Dr. Nick | Issue 14

Hi Dr. Nick | Issue 14

Mite-y Itchy

Hi everybody,

Before the break, one of the halls had a bit of a problem with the ol’ scabies mite. In the interest of college confidentiality, I won’t go naming names, but it’s on a hill and full of pretentious bell-ends, which narrows it down to at least four.

Scabies (“the itch”) is an infestation of around 12-15 mites similar to lice. They don’t live in your freshly manscaped fun-zone though, preferring instead to burrow into your skin and set up shop there. As with most of life’s problems, the female is to blame; she burrows deeper than the males and shits where the immune system can see it. This buried poo then sets up an allergic reaction and you itch like mad as a result.

Diagnosing scabies is pretty easy. The itch is pretty characteristic – intense, worst at night and generally in areas where skin-to-skin contact occurs (fingers/hands, trunk, genitals) – and there’s usually a rash. Sometimes if you look hard enough you can see the characteristic burrow marks where the mite’s been, and if nothing else you can take a small skin biopsy.

Treating scabies is significantly harder. See, it takes the immune system a bit to work out that a bug has shat in your skin so people who have never had scabies before don’t get symptoms until about a month after they’re infected. This means that when you treat somebody for scabies, you’ve got to assume everybody who lives with them and has had skin-to-skin contact with them is also infected.

There’s no over-the-counter fix for scabies and the mites won’t just pack up and leave on their own. To get rid of them it’s a doctor’s trip, treating all suspected infested people and giving the place a decent clean. The mite usually only lives for about 24-36 hours outside of the body, but survives significantly longer in cold temperatures. Basically anywhere people live that’s cold and tends to involve prolonged skin-to-skin contact (giggity) is a great place for the scabies mite. Hence the itchy knobs on the hill.
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Dr. Nick.