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Student Health Services

Lice, Scabies, and Molluscum

Lice

Lice are parasites--tiny insects that infest the hairy part of the body and feed on human blood. Pubic lice, which are found in pubic hair, are very tiny lice, often called "crabs" because they look like crabs when examined under a magnifying glass.

Symptoms

Lice will cause persistent itching in the genital or rectal area. You may see nits, which are small white egg cases, attached to the base of the hair, or you may notice small brownish-colored lice attached to the hair shaft.

Lice are spread through direct contact with an infected person and direct contact with personal items belonging to an infected person. Using someone else's clothing, hats, bedding, and towels should be avoided. It is possible to become infected with lice by using a contaminated toilet seat.

Treatment

  1. Apply Kwell Shampoo to the infected area, making sure the hair is entirely wet. Allow the shampoo to remain on for four minutes.
  2. With a very fine comb (usually provided when you purchase the shampoo), remove dead lice and nits.
  3. Wash all clothing, bed linens and towels in hot water, and machine dry on the hot temperature setting.
  4. Disinfect non-washables such as bedding, furniture, and rug with RTC Spray, which can be purchased at most pharmacies.
  5. Warn your sexual partner and people living with you that they too may be infected and need to be treated.

Scabies

Scabies is a skin disease caused by a tiny organism known as the "itch mite." It causes a red, itchy rash and the itch is most intense at night.

Highly contagious, scabies often spread rapidly among school children, family members, roommates and sexual partners.

Usually scabies are spread by direct contact with another infested person.

Symptoms
Scabies mites mate on the skin's surface, then the female burrows into the skin to lay her eggs, causing the skin to itch. The temptation is to scratch, but this can invite greater infection. Because scabies are 1/60 of an inch or smaller, they are difficult to see. A grayish-white thread on the skin may mark a female's burrow. A clinician will look for this symptom between fingers, on the backs of hands, elbows, armpits, breasts, groin, penis, along the belt line, on the back, or buttocks. Symptoms may take 4-6 weeks to emerge after contact with scabies. The itchy rash typical of scabies is common to other types of skin disorders, too. Your clinician will want to confirm your diagnosis by scraping the skin and examining the scraping under a microscope. This examination is usually quick and painless.

Treatment
Your clinician can prescribe a number of medicines which are effective against scabies. A cream or ointment may kill the mites within 12 hours, but the itching may continue 2-3 weeks. Ointments can be purchased that will soothe the itching.

Prevention
Anyone can get scabies if they come into contact with an infested person. If a person is reinfested, symptoms may appear more rapidly than before. If you have a rash, don't assume it is scabies. Come to the University Health Center for proper diagnosis and treatment.

To prevent scabies infestation:

  1. Wash your hands often and your hair frequently.
  2. Wear clean clothes every day and don't exchange clothes with others.
  3. If anyone in your family is infested, make sure everyone in the family is checked immediately.
  4. Don't use the same bedding as an infected person. Someone being treated for scabies should wear clean clothes and use clean bedding.
  5. If you have a skin condition that itches mostly at night, get medical attention as soon as possible.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum, a skin disease caused by a poxvirus, appears on the skin in small bumps or lesions. The lesions become more "dimpled" in appearance as they increase in size. Each lesion contains a thick white core which harbors the virus.

Molluscum is spread through physical contact with a person who is infected. Once you have molluscum, it can easily spread to different areas on your body. At one time molluscum was seen mostly in children, but it is now more prevalent in young adults (16 to 25). It has been associated increasingly with sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Treatment
If you think you have molluscum, see a health professional at the University Health Center so that an appropriate diagnosis can be made.

To treat molluscum, the infected areas of skin are cleansed, and the lesions opened to remove the core. The lesions should then heal in about 5 to 10 days. Occasionally molluscum will disappear spontaneously, but in most cases untreated lesions will enlarge and spread.