What is scabies?

Scabies: Overview

Scabies is a very itchy rash caused by tiny bugs called mites. These tiny mites dig just under the skin and lay eggs. An allergic reaction to the mites causes the itching. It can take 4 to 6 weeks after a person gets scabies for the allergic reaction to start.

Scabies is usually spread by close contact with another person who has scabies. Sometimes scabies is spread through shared towels, clothes, and bedding.

Scabies can be treated with medicine if you follow directions carefully. Usually everyone in the house needs to be treated. The medicine kills the mites within a day. But the itching commonly lasts for 2 to 4 weeks after treatment because the allergic reaction continues.

Scabies

Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the outer layers of the skin. The scabies mites are spread through close contact with a person who has scabies, such as by living together, sleeping in the same bed, or having sex.

What are the symptoms of scabies?

Scabies causes severe itching that is often worse at night. Tiny bumps, blisters, or sores are also likely. These may occur between the fingers and on the palm side of the wrists. They may also occur in other places like on the elbows, armpits, waistline, navel, and buttocks.

How is scabies treated?

Scabies is treated with a special cream that your doctor prescribes. Or your doctor may have you take pills. A second treatment may be needed. Scabies won't go away on its own. To get rid of it and to keep from spreading it to others, you need to use medicine.

How is scabies diagnosed?

Usually a doctor can diagnose scabies based on your symptoms. Scabies is especially likely if you have had close contact with other people who have had the same symptoms. Sometimes you may have a test to confirm that you have scabies.

How to apply medicine to treat scabies

To successfully treat scabies, all members of an affected household must be treated at the same time. Follow these instructions when using medicine to treat scabies:

  1. Take a lukewarm (not hot) bath or shower.
    • Dry off well with a towel.
    • Do not share this towel with others.
  2. Apply the medicine according to your doctor's directions.
    • In most cases, the medicine is a cream or lotion that is applied in a thin, even layer over the whole body from the neck down.
    • Look for special instructions for infants and children. Be sure to read and follow all instructions that come with the medicine.
    Do not apply the scabies medicine more often than is recommended by your doctor.
  3. Trim fingernails and toenails short.
  4. Brush the medicine thoroughly under the fingernails.
  5. Leave the medicine on for as long as your doctor recommends.
  6. Wash the medicine off with lukewarm, soapy water, and dry the skin.
  7. Put on clean clothing, and change your bed linens.
    • Wash all clothes, bedding, and towels used in the 3 days before you or your child started treatment. Use hot water, and use the hot cycle in a dryer.
    • Another option is to dry-clean these items. Or seal them in a plastic bag for 3 days.
    • Vacuum your whole home on the day you start treatment.

How can you care for your child who has scabies?

  • Use the medicine your doctor recommends or prescribes. Be sure to read and follow all instructions that come with the medicine. Two treatments may be needed to cure scabies.
  • Wash all clothes, bedding, and towels that your child and any other possibly infected person used in the 3 days before your child started treatment, including any stuffed animals. Use hot water, and use the hot cycle in the dryer. Another option is to dry-clean these items. Or seal them in a plastic bag for 3 days.
  • On the day your child starts treatment, vacuum the room or rooms used by anyone who had scabies.
  • Check with your doctor before you give your child any over-the-counter medicines to help stop itching.
  • Trim your child's fingernails, and keep your child's hands clean. This can keep your child from getting an infection from scratching.
  • Tell your child's school or day care if your child has scabies. Your child can return to child care or school the day after the first treatment has been completed.

How is scabies spread?

Scabies mites spread from person to person by close contact. They can easily spread between people who live together, sleep in the same bed, or have sex. Sometimes the mites can also be spread by sharing towels, clothing, and other personal items.

Scabies often affects several household members at the same time. You can spread it to another person before you have symptoms.

What is scabies?

Scabies is a condition of very itchy skin caused by tiny mites that burrow into your skin. The itching is caused by an allergic reaction to the mites. Scabies spreads very easily from person to person. It can affect anyone. It spreads more easily in crowded living situations or between close contacts.

Scabies mite

Scabies mite.

Scabies mites burrow into the outer layers of human skin, causing itching, a rash, and sometimes skin sores. The scabies mites are spread through close contact with an infested person, such as by living together, sleeping in the same bed, or having sex.

How can you care for yourself when you have scabies?

There are ways to care for yourself when you have scabies. First, use the medicine your doctor recommends or prescribes. Wash all clothes, bedding, and towels that you used in the 3 days before starting treatment. Vacuum your room on the day you start treatment.

Scabies in children: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has signs of a worsening infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from a bite area.
    • A fever.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.