The itch mite does not have the same habits as the body louse. The body louse lives in the clothing and feeds on the body, but the itch mite lives in the body under the skin. Any infestation of clothing or bedding by the itch mite is accidental. Only about 3 per cent of all cases are infested from clothing or bedding.
The itch mite tunnels under the skin. If the skin is cleaned and is free from crusting and secondary infection the little spots of invasion can be seen. The female mite burrows into the skin through the hair follicles and travels along a tunnel, which she creates. At the inner end of the tunnel she lays her eggs. After three to five days the eggs hatch, and the larvae burrow along new tunnels or come out of the old one.
During World War II several new treatments were developed for scabies. Emulsion of benzyl benzoate, 23 per cent, is most frequently used. Several proprietary preparations like Kwell and Eurax embody this principle. After the body has been thoroughly scrubbed with hot water, the emulsion is applied with a brush or with an insecticide gun and the whole body is covered from the neck down. The emulsion is allowed to dry, and then after ten or fifteen minutes a second application is painted on. The patient then puts on his clothing and refrains from bathing for twenty-four hours. Then he is given another painting with the benzyl benzoate emulsion. After a second twenty-four-hour period he is instructed to bathe and put on all clean clothing. If these instructions are carried out carefully 95 per cent of patients are cured. The failures are given another course of treatment. The ointment called Gammexane, which is hexachlorocyclohexane, is also used effectively against scabies. The new treatments tend to replace the older use of sulphur ointment, pyrethrum ointment, and rotenone ointment.