–A good many skin affections, characterised by irritation and minute vesicles and pustules, are included under the term “itch,” as popularly used. Strictly speaking, the term should only be applied to the specific disease called Scabies, which is due to the presence of the itch-mite, called, Ascarus scabiei. This mite is almost too small to be seen by the naked eye, but the female burrows in the skin, and there lays her eggs, and the burrows can be made out. The discovery of these burrows, or of the mite itself, is the only sure means of diagnosing the disease. When diagnosed, the treatment is simple–namely, to kill the mite by external applications. If there is a mistake in the diagnosis external applications may do harm. Sometimes when the eruption is very extensive, it is not so easy to get rid of the irritation set up by the parasite; when there is a constitutional tendency to skin disease, it may last long after the mite itself has disappeared. For the itch-mite is not the whole of the disease. There is a constitutional basis which favours its development. Therefore any attempt to get rid of the disease by violent, external measures often leads to life- long suffering.
General Treatment.–As soon as the disease is discovered, the patient should take a bath in hot water, and soap well all over. When dry he should anoint himself with oil of lavender, which kills both insects and eggs. He should then have a complete change of bed-linen and under-linen. This will in most cases suffice to remove the disease. A second application may be required. If the skin irritation does not subside when the cause is removed, the constitutional element in the case will require constitutional treatment.
Medicines.–(Two or three times a day.)
–This is the most useful remedy in a general way; the irritation is aggravated by warmth of the bed.
–If the eruption becomes eczematous, or if the pustules become larger.