Scabies– aka Galis, What to do?

Scabies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“Galis” or “kati”, also known as Scabies is a highly contagious skin disease that should not be taken lightly.  You are probably familiar with “galis” or “kati” as it is a common skin condition not only here in the Philippines but in other countries as well. It can affect any person regardless of age, gender, race or social class. 

You might think that it is a simple bug bite causing rashes to your skin that will go away even if left untreated, but NO! It won’t go away by itself– it needs treatment that’s why it is helpful to know some basic facts about scabies. Scabies, as mentioned above, is highly contagious. The disease is caused by the eight-legged female itch mites Sarcoptes scabiei that burrows into the skin. However, individuals that are newly infected may not see symptoms for 4-6 weeks.

It can spread easily on the entire household regardless of personal hygiene of a person– An infected individual can spread the disease through skin-to-skin contact and/or sharing of personal items like clothes, towels, etc.

What are the main symptoms of Scabies?
The hallmark of scabies is intense itching that usually worsens at night, robbing you of a peaceful and uneventful sleep.
Blisters that look like hives and tiny bug bites can be seen in the areas all over the body. These become patches of small, pus-filled bumps that will eventually develop into sores when the indivdual affected scratches the bumps. Scratching is not really a good idea
as it only worsens the condition (spreading it to other parts of the body) and it also makes you more prone to infection.

The rashes can occur in almost any part of the body but these are the most commonly affected:
-In between the fingernails/toenails
-Underneath rings/bracelets or other accessories

Diagnosing scabies:

Your doctor can diagnose scabies by the following:

  1. Asking if you had any recent close contact with an individual who has been diagnosed with scabies.
  2. Examining a skin sample scraped from a suspected affected area in your body under a microscope which can confirm whether or not the sample is infected with Sarcoptes scabiei.

Treatment of scabies:
As mentioned above, scabies is not the type of disease that will eventually subside without treatment and go away on its own. You have to take a medicine to treat it. The goal of the treatment is to treat the rash/es and totally destroy and kill the mites on the skin of the infected person.

A topical cream and/or lotion to be applied to the surface of the skin affected may be prescribed by your doctor. Another option is an oral medication for adults (this type is not recommended for children and pregnant mothers and older adults as this can have dangerous side effects). It is always best to consult your doctor about the type of medication you should take if you have scabies.

How can you prevent scabies:

  1. Early detection for early treatment. Recognizing the rashes before it can spread to other parts of the body would be helpful to treat it quickly.
  2. Good personal hygiene. Always keep yourself clean. Take a daily bath with soap and water and change into clean undergarments/underwear.
  3. Avoid sharing personal belongings to anyone. You’ll never know if the person is infected with scabies (or other diseases).
  4. If you already have it: Avoid scratching the rashes/blisters as this will only cause rupture of the blisters and further spreading it to other parts of your body.
  5. For the time being (that you are still undergoing treatment for scabies) separate your personal belongings to avoid contaminating other members of the family.
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