Mar 25, 2009

Everything you need to know about surviving the scabies half of the mite-pocalypse

Late nineties apocalyptic preoccupations were primarily concerned with ubiquitous vaginal infections like bubonic BV and the tenacious and fearsome colonization of all bodily moistness known as candida. While fears of basic vaginal ph levels are hardly a thing of the past, evidence suggests that the apocalyptic proportions of such vaginal infections may have decreased over a timeline roughly coinciding with veganism’s decline in popularity.

Declines in the rate of bubonic BV may also be due to experimental research in “bouch-wear,” leathery protective talismen crafted by fermentation artisans out of the dried liver-like substance of “kombucha mother,” a gelatinous colony of yeast and bacteria originally found floating on the surface of Ukranian lakes. While conclusive proof is still being awaiting, it is suggested that bouch-wear may have powerful balancing effects on microorganisms, including the bacteria known to cause BV.

While MRSA staph has emerged as the new and arguably more formidable and mysterious form of infection to colonize our skin surfaces and minds, recent reports from both and left and right coasts have shown mites—namely bedbugs and scabies, are beginning a new all-out offensive to position themselves as the primary threat to our lives, minds, and ability to comfortably inhabit bodies in the world alongside other bodies in the world.

While at TJJET we prefer to offer you information that may be less technical or at least more uplifting, we believe that knowledge about scabies has turned out to be sufficiently mysterious to qualify itself as general esoteria. Also, due to the high number of readers who are public health workers, are having sex with a lot of people, or who are public health workers fucking other public health workers (an especially vulnerable demographic), we have come to recognize this as a subject of growing concern to our readership. To that end, we have agreed to undertake an intensive study of all information about scabies currently known to humans, including original research in mite-specific banishings and excorcisms. While we realize that scabies only represent one half of the mite-pocalypse, the extent of this research has been far more exhaustive than originally intended. We welcome the expertise of any known bedbug experts who have taken that one for the team, because we have no intention of doing so.

The information that follows is guaranteed to have been experientially tested with more weird-girl rigor and neuroticism than anywhere else on the world wide web. We hope to spare you the hours, dollars, and possible mental ruin that could result from a thorough perusing of internet message boards on the subject, where you are likely to encounter numerous scams and the details of horrific science fiction skin diseases unrecognized by the CDC and possibly related to chem-trails and alien abductions. To be fair, we wouldn’t want you to miss this ad featuring a sports-nut scabie-sufferer. But really, you are ill-advised to google scabies.

The Basics

Scabies are a microscopic mite that colonizes your skin. They itch, especially at night. Some people will have rash-like symptoms. Sometimes you will see “burrows” which are wavy lines made by the tunneling action of the mites under the skin. Medical experts will tell you they usually show up around the arm pits, belt line, chest, ass, elbows, webbing of toes and fingers, ankles, and back of legs. If this sounds unhelpful because it describes almost your entire body, it’s because it does, and it is just one part of what keeps scabies infections generally shrouded in mystery.

If you’ve never had them, the symptoms can take three to six weeks to show up because your body develops an allergic reaction to them over time. During this “window period” you can still infect others. Before you call every person you’ve hugged, consider that if scabies were that easy to get, we’d probably all have them from the unfortunately upholstered surfaces of BART trains. Scabies mites are not very hearty. They don’t like to live off the body for more than 36 hours and generally there aren’t too many live mites on the body at one time. Infections are likely limited to parent-child contact, and people you’ve had sex or shared a bed with, though it is not unheard of for scabies to have been passed among roommates by way of couches or bath towels.

Diagnosis can be tough. Everyone’s reactions and symptoms look different. Healthcare professionals often lack definitive information. While diagnostic tests (if you can convince a doctor to do them) do exist, skin scrapings often show a high number of false negatives because there are so few live mites on the body as a whole. Things to look for include a pattern of escalating itching, especially during the night, after exposure to an infection.

Taking care of business

The usual prescription for infection is permethrin 5%, a topical cream that kills the mites and eggs. While this one shot deal might seem appealing, keep in mind that it is a neurotoxin applied to the largest organ in your body and it is recommended to only be done three times in a lifetime. A tube is usually good for two full body treatments, aka overnight coatings. If you have health insurance or a friend who does, one can usually call in and give them a line to have a prescription written. There are other types of prescriptions. Lindane is an ultra-toxic topical treatment and there’s also an internal anti-parasitic for particularly bad cases.

Even in the case of successful treatments, you will probably continue to have symptoms for several weeks as your body reacts to the dead mites left behind, so don’t freak out and keep reusing this toxic shit. Our only other cautionary word is that permethrin does not always work and it does not protect against reinfection. While you hardly want to subject everyone around you to toxic rub-downs, if roommates or lovers are not treating you should pay special attention to the window period for symptoms before letting down any hypervigilant campaigns of cleanliness.

With any kind of treatment you choose, it is important to clean the environment as well. Vacuum like crazy. This also means washing and drying bedding, upholstery, and all recently worn clothing and shoes. If you don’t want to wash everything, you can bag it up for a couple days. If there’s no moisture, the mites supposedly die quickly. Go get several rolls of quarters and some good Laundromat reading because it is incredibly likely you will be cozied up at the coin-op a lot more than usual until everyone in your midst is definitively scabies-free.

The low down on non-toxic treatments

Permetherin 5% is not recommended as a treatment for pregnant people or infants due to toxicity. In these cases, pharmacists can mix an ointment of 10% sulfur. Why, you might ask, is everyone not being prescribed this cheap, non-toxic treatment? Good question. Besides it being somewhat messy and taking a couple days, we see no reasonable way to account for the fact that this time-tested favorite of commune dwellers and forest activists seems to have fallen out of use, especially when one takes into account all of the expensive and ineffective alternative treatments being tried.

Here’s how it works: You buy some sulfur powder. We were able to get a pound for five bucks from the local herbal apothecary. You mix it 1 part to 10 into vegetable glycerin or some highly absorbable lotion. We don’t know whether 1:10 means by weight or volume, but let’s be real, you are going to put in way more sulfur than it calls for, so just mix it up. The glycerin can be messy but gets better coating-action. You might want to try a coat with glycerin from the neck down at night. In the morning you can shower and apply another coat with the lotion mixture. Continue this for three 24 hour cycles (days).

If you are trying to select a lotion and you think all gross drugstore lotions are created equally, they are not. The ingredients appear similar, but Lubriderm got a less messy, more even coat on. You can be out in the world in your sulfur coat, you just might smell a little like a home perm. It’s messy enough that you might want to refrain from wearing black or dark colors. The glycerin washes easily out of clothing and bed sheets but the sulfur does leave a faint smell, nothing that can’t be explained by saying you fell into a hot spring until the smell washes out entirely.

Other pro’s of this treatment method: Besides being cheap, not too labor intensive, and non toxic, sulfur has the added benefit of having a common witchy use of being a hex-repellent and expellant. Witchy proprieters of the powder sell it as "brimstone" and claim it removes enemies’ powers over you. If this is true, the sulfur treatment could also be effective in treating the post-scabies syndrome commonly known as “scabies of the mind.” Finally, another notable benefit of the sulfur treatment: If there is anyone you’ve smashed with that you end up needing to tell about the scabies, you could make a date out of a beach blanket sulfur soak with special snacks and a themed movie marathon, which is much nicer than offering someone the other half of your tube of toxic paste and telling them you’d like to see them again in a month.

Some words on Neem and other “natural treatments”

Although we’ve already put forth another, far cheaper non-toxic treatment alternative, there are simply too many wild claims about neem oil to not address it. Internet searching will yield all kinds of vague information about the use of neem for scabies. What is impossible to find, though, is anyone who is claiming to actually have fully managed a scabies outbreak with the stuff. Proponents of the neem approach say the neem disrupts the scabies ability to reproduce and so slowly kills the outbreak.

We personally subjected ourselves to over two weeks of nightly neem baths and just as much tea tree oil. While the outbreak was managed during that time, the mites returned as soon as the baths were stopped. And in case nightly neem baths sounds like a relaxing ritual, consider how you and everything you own, touch, or look at will smell like rancid peanut butter even after several washings. This is especially bad if you live in California where the offensive smell of neem may spark “friendly reminders” at work about company scent-free policies. We wish we were joking.

As for tea tree oil, people have been claiming this as a virtual panacea for every apocalyptic ailment mentioned in this article (BV, MRSA, mites). One question we would like to put forth is if tea tree oil kills everything known to exist, is it really that great for us? Also, the tea tree oil may have helped manage, but did not actually rid us of mites, so we say keep the TTO in the toothpicks where it belongs.

We hope that this information, more acutely painstaking in it’s collection than much of what we hope to offer here at TJJET, proves useful. Since no amount of information about microscopic mites will ever be completely satisfying, we welcome additional questions, comments, speculations, and hearsay related to the mite-pocalypse. Together, we survive.

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