Do I have scabies? Will I have scabies?
October 20, 2011 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Two of my boyfriend's roommates have scabies. I do not want scabies. I am also extremely anxious about bugs.

Roommate 1 was diagnosed with scabies yesterday. Roommate 2 is showing signs, and is seeing his doctor today.

R1 just took a Europe trip for the past two weeks, but he thinks he got it in DC.

I spend about 3-5 nights a week at their place. My boyfriend shows no signs, but we have all shared couches and common areas.

I also have intense anxiety issues relating to bugs on me When in very anxious states, I begin to "see" bugs everywhere (eg if there is a small speck on my sheets, I have to inspect it) and feel crawling on my skin. I would compare myself to a Morgellons sufferer, except I am very clear that all of this is in my head. That doesn't mean I feel any less panicked.

Obviously, I am in somewhat of a state. What is the realistic risk of my getting scabies? How can I manage my anxiety in the mean time?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The CDC is pretty authoritative.

You may want to skip straight to Prevention & Treatment, since you have already been (possibly) exposed.

"All household members and other potentially exposed persons should be treated at the same time as the infested person to prevent possible reexposure and reinfestation. Bedding and clothing worn or used next to the skin anytime during the 3 days before treatment should be machine washed and dried using the hot water and hot dryer cycles or be dry-cleaned. Items that cannot be dry-cleaned or laundered can be disinfested by storing in a closed plastic bag for several days to a week. Scabies mites generally do not survive more than 2 to 3 days away from human skin. Children and adults usually can return to child care, school, or work the day after treatment."
posted by Wretch729 at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2011

Well, you'll never see scabies, if that makes you feel better (it probably doesn't, sorry). I got them from my roommate, and gave them to my boyfriend. Both you and your boyfriend should assume that you have scabies and act as such. Taking action like this may actually lessen your anxieties. If you call R1's doctor and explain that you cohabitate with someone s/he's diagnosed as having it, you might be able to receive expedited treatment (i.e., a prescription for the scabicide without diagnosis).

I assume that your boyfriend and his roommates are taking steps to clean the common areas that they share, such as covering the couch and throw pillows, etc., in plastic? You need to separate all the clothes, towels, sheets, bedspreads, blankets, etc. you've been using and wash/dry them on hot (I found that it was effective to put things I didn't want to shrink in a hot dryer without washing them first, kill the scabies that way, and then wash and dry them. And then leave them in garbage bags for a week or two.)

There's plenty of advice on what to do to clean your house, things, etc., but the best advice I can give is to reiterate that you should assume you are infected and take action accordingly.
posted by kickingthecrap at 10:15 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

The time from when they start crawling on you to when you start itching is four to six weeks (unless you've had them on you before--then you're already sensitized to them and will start itching within a day or two). That's one of the reasons why they spread so easily. Nthing assume that you need to clean all of your stuff now.
posted by anaelith at 10:39 AM on October 20, 2011

Ok. Deep breath. You may have scabies. You also have an anxiety issue. Obviously, this differs for everyone, but a low (10mg) dose of prozac completely eliminated this type of anxiety for me in about 1 week. Turned it off like a light. It's possible that you would want something that would work in the sorter term.

Don't ignore the anxiety part, please! It makes the rest so, so much more manageable, because you can examine risks with a clear head. Don't discount the emotional cost of the anxiety.

Most general practitioners can prescribe simple anxiety, but I'd see a psychiatrist or other specialist before I stayed on something long term.
posted by mercredi at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2011

If you're boyfriend doesn't have it you probably won't get it. However if he does have it you almost certainly will get it.

I have kind of a bug anxiety like you and I've had scabies (thanks to a former boyfriend). It really really sucked but it's more like extreme itchiness, not that bug crawly feeling. The skin mites are too tiny too see. Make sure you're washing EVERYTHING and don't sit on their couch.

There's a cream you get that you put all over your body, leave on overnight and wash off in the morning. Do that then wash your sheets and you'll be fine.
posted by ad4pt at 11:01 AM on October 20, 2011

To follow up, I'm not saying you shouldn't follow all this good advice about dealing with the scabies. Just that dealing with the anxiety will take it from an overwhelming nightmare to a frustrating inconvenience.
posted by mercredi at 11:11 AM on October 20, 2011

I had scabies once as a teen. It was super easy to take care of: put on some cream (all over, which was kinda fun with a partner), do some laundry, and problem solved.

You should do the treatment at the same time as your BFs roommates even if you don't have symptoms, just for peace of mind.

But yeah, if you see a bug, it's not scabies.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:31 PM on October 20, 2011

Over-the-counter scabies treatment uses permethrin, which is supposed to be pretty safe for humans. Call your doctor, and see if it makes any sense to treat it prophyllactically, e.g., do the treatment just in case. There really isn't any squick factor, but it itches so fiercely that avoiding it is a swell idea.
posted by theora55 at 1:44 PM on October 20, 2011

what coolguymichael said...scabies is super-easy to get rid of...deep breaths, don't panic, hit the drugstore, then the hardware store (for plastic sheeting and duct tape to wrap up the furniture for a week)
posted by sexyrobot at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2011

Yeah, do the treatment just in case, and chances are, you'll never notice even if you had been infected, because they'll all die before the itchiness even begins.

And the (only) good thing about scabies is that you absolutely do NOT feel THEM on you. You don't feel them moving, you can't see them with the naked eye, and the itchiness isn't caused by their bites. You just get itchy because you become kind of allergic to them after exposure. So having scabies is more like a super annoying version of having the natural things that live on our skin all the time already anyway (bacteria, mites, etc). Hopefully that helps with the anxiety.
posted by lollusc at 3:24 PM on October 20, 2011

Everyone should get the cream, and wash and change all the bedsheets, on about the same day.

Hot wash, or hot drier should kill scabies.

Also, watch out for wearing shoes without socks.

It generally takes skin to skin contact, or prolonged contact with things that would normally be in prolonged skin contact (ie bedsheets, and in my nephews case, I think he got given some other kids shoes to wear by mistake).

They don't wander far, so, mostly applying ointment to the rash will work. It might help to think of it as an infectious rash, rather than 'bugs'. Bacteria are alive, and scabies are too small to see.

Anyway, it's not so bad, and will be gone soon.

Bonus: Probably won't apply to you, but - Getting scabies cleared up my 4 year old nephews excema. It's been gone nearly a year now. Go figure!
More than made up for the hassle with a silver lining.
posted by Elysum at 5:08 PM on October 20, 2011

Hey, this isn't going to help your panic levels, but scabies might not actually be the problem here. I was diagnosed with and ineffectually treated for scabies for two months before we discovered that my entire apartment building was actually infested with bed bugs. The inflammation you get from bed bugs is very hard to diagnose, and not everyone who is bitten gets it. My boyfriend lived with me in the apartment, too, and never got a rash or any sign of bites at all.

I'm suspicious because you say two different roommates have rashes, and because traveling is a great way to pick up bed bugs these days.

Try checking under your mattresses for signs of them, though if the infestation is still small it may not be visible yet.
posted by sunnichka at 10:01 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ick! I caught scabies once from a nasty motel 6 that I stayed at. You do not want to have scabies trust me. If your boyfriends roommates have scabies it's a darn near certainty that he has them or will have then shortly which means that you will too. Scabies can take up to sic weeks after infectn to show signs depending on if you were exposed before and how allergic you are to them. Although easily treated on your body they are a pain to decontaminate off from your clothing and bedding.

Continue contact with your boyfriend and you will almost certainly develop an infection. Trust me when I tell you that you don't want to get scabies.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:36 PM on October 20, 2011

I know that this is the standard AskMe answer, but I would recommend that you see a therapist/counselor to work on your anxiety. You will learn coping skills to help recognize your anxiety triggers and how to mitigate the anxiety response. You are already way past most people by realizing what makes you anxious and that some of your obsessive thoughts aren't totally based in reality.
posted by radioamy at 9:49 AM on October 21, 2011

« Older What's the best recipe for homemade asiago bagels?   |   And I say no, no, no. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.