Common in care homes, nurseries, and student accommodation, cases of scabies in Lancaster have been on the rise, and at other universities too, so why haven’t we heard about it?
Scabies is a common disease that anyone is susceptible to, categorised by intense itching and a raised rash or spots. Very small mites lay eggs in the skin, leaving dotted lines behind them. These can spread across your entire body and, for more vulnerable victims, even up to their head and neck.
One Lancs student reached out to us and described their experience, starting from when they noticed a small, scaly, circle on their shoulder in late October that they dismissed as weather-related eczema. However, a week later, they noticed strange bumps form on their chest and stomach, followed by a red rash across their front and back as they started to itch.
When the rash progressed, the student called Lancaster Medical Practice to make an appointment, and when they revealed that they were at university, the GP concluded it to be scabies. The GP said it ‘makes sense’ that it’s scabies, given how most students live in shared accommodation, be that a house or a flat, as the disease is highly contagious.
One measure this student took to improve their condition was to wash all of their bedding and clothes, as well as hoovering their mattress and deep cleaning their entire room. This was advised on the NHS website to prevent reinfection, following the student’s own initiative to look into their condition, rather than the information being provided by the GP upon their appointment. As Scabies is transferred from contact with the skin, this Lancs student reported that ‘every single thing that [they] had touched had to be washed.’
Although scabies is not usually categorised as a serious condition, it is still vital that it is treated as soon as possible. The treatment for scabies is a prescribed lotion or cream, accompanied by vigilance regarding hygiene, and refraining from sexual activity.
‘What the doctor didn’t tell me was that once I’ve applied the cream, I have to isolate for 24 hours’
Further let down by the care received, the student was open with their housemates, plunging the whole house in to an all too familiar lockdown. Despite the treatment taking only 24 hours, the itching and discomfort of the condition can last for up to eight weeks, which is unfortunately what this Lancs student has experienced. But this isn’t new, not for this country, or for the world.
According to The Metro, in 2019 Oxford University issued a ‘close contact warning’ following a scabies outbreak, and students on TikTok from Holland to America, have been sharing details of their experience with the former ‘poor mans disease.’ One British creator @thinkmunch comments that ‘If I ever smell scabies cream again, I will just peacefully pass away.’ But still scabies doesn’t receive the same forewarning of freshers flu and flat-cest.
Following their openness with the university, the student was hoping that the students’ union would do something. The student encouraged the university to provide some form of information and support for other students, even if it was just an email. ‘A lot of people will be too embarrassed to talk about it, because it is quite embarrassing.’ But in order for people to look after themselves, they need to know the unpleasant detail, and this is what this student has bravely done, opened up to us to help spread awareness so another student isn’t caught off guard.
The best way to avoid catching scabies is good hygiene. Wash your sheets, clothes, and towels regularly, as well as keep your room, and common rooms clean (not just a sweep of crumbs on to the floor). Use antibacterial wipes and spray, as well as laundry detergent and fabric softener. If you believe you are experiencing any symptoms of scabies, such as itches, rashes, dotted bumps under the skin, and redness: distance yourself from your flatmates and other people until you have made a GP appointment.
Contact Lancaster Medical Practice on 01524 551551