Parents have been warned to watch out for the signs of scabies in their children amid a nationwide rise in cases.

Norfolk County Council has sent out letters urging people to be vigilant for symptoms of the infection in order to stop it from spreading in the community.

Norfolk's Director for Public Health, Stuart Lines, said that by taking action early, it can prevent it becoming an issue in the county. 

Dereham Times: Scabies are tiny mites that burrow into the skin before laying eggsScabies are tiny mites that burrow into the skin before laying eggs (Image: NHS England)

He said: "Here in Norfolk we’re fortunate to have a very low incidence of scabies.

"We have seen cases of scabies reported elsewhere in the country and because we know that the sooner a case is treated, the sooner it clears up, we advise everyone to be vigilant, particularly children and young people in educational settings.

"This way we can ensure that any cases that do emerge in Norfolk are identified quickly and contained early."

What is scabies?

According to the NHS, scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin.

The mites are called sarcoptes scabiei and they feed using their mouths and front legs to burrow into the outer layer of skin (epidermis), where they lay eggs.

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Scabies like warm places, such as skin folds, between the fingers, under fingernails, or around the buttock or breast creases. They can also hide under watch straps, bracelets or rings.

Dereham Times: Scabis can cause a nasty rash that can be intensely itchyScabis can cause a nasty rash that can be intensely itchy (Image: NHS England)

What are the symptoms of scabies?

The symptoms of scabies include intense itching, especially at night. A raised rash or spots could be another sign.

The rash can appear anywhere but it often starts between the fingers.

It usually spreads across the whole body, apart from the head.

However, older people, young children and those with a weakened immune system may develop a rash on their head and neck.

Mr Lines added: "Symptoms include severe itching, starting in one area and then spreading to other parts of the body, as well as blisters, most commonly – although not exclusively – on and between the fingers."

How is scabies spread?

Scabies can be spread by skin-to-skin contact.

People who live or work closely together in nurseries, university halls of residence or nursing homes are more at risk.

Anyone can get scabies. It has nothing to do with poor hygiene.

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Mr Lines said: "If you have the symptoms please be sure to avoid any contact that could be a risk to others.

"If you or anyone in your household develops symptoms, you should contact your GP or NHS 111 as soon as possible to receive effective treatment and advice on how to limit the spread of the scabies mite.”

How is scabies treated?

A pharmacist will recommend a cream or lotion that you apply over your whole body.

Scabies is very infectious but it can take up to eight weeks for the rash to appear.

Everyone in your home needs to be treated at the same time, even if they do not have symptoms.

Anyone you have had sexual contact with in the past eight weeks should also be treated.

Alongside treatment, if you have scabies you should also:

  • Wash all bedding and clothing in the house at 50C or higher on the first day of treatment
  • Put clothing that cannot be washed in a sealed bag for 3 days until the mites die
  • Stop babies and children sucking treatment from their hands by putting socks or mittens on them

You or your child can go back to work or school 24 hours after the first treatment.

Although the treatment kills the scabies mites quickly, the itching can carry on for a few weeks.