This is a contagious skin infection caused by tiny mites. These mites burrow under the skin and cause sores and intense itching.

This is a contagious skin infection caused by tiny mites. These mites burrow under the skin and cause sores and intense itching.

Scabies is a contagious skin infection caused by tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites burrow under the skin and cause sores and intense itching.

  • The adult female burrows into the top layer of skin to lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, the young mites live on the surface of the skin. Once the females mature, they burrow under the skin to repeat the cycle.
  • Norwegian scabies, also known as crusted scabies, is a severe form of scabies in which thousands of mites are present.

Scabies spreads through direct (skin-to-skin) contact with an infected person. Skin contact is usually needed because the mites don't fly or jump. (The longer the contact, the more likely you are to catch scabies. This is true even if you have good personal hygiene.) A female mite can live on a person for four to six weeks. The mites can live for three to four days off the body, so it is possible to catch scabies by contact with recently infected clothing or linens.

  • You are more likely to catch scabies if you live in a crowded environment.
  • You can spread the infection from the time you are infected (even if you do not have any symptoms) until you have completed your treatment.

The symptoms of scabies, which are caused by an allergic reaction to the mite, include:

  • Intense itching (especially at night or after a hot bath)
  • A rash, often between the fingers but can occur anywhere
  • Thin, pencil-mark lines on the skin (burrows)
  • Small, itchy blisters or raised red skin, usually in a line

Treatment for scabies includes a prescription skin lotion, such as permethrin. The lotion is applied to the body after taking a bath. It is left on for a few hours and then washed off. To avoid potentially serious side effects, carefully follow your healthcare provider's specific instructions.

  • Scabies is very contagious. All household members are usually treated at the same time, even if they don't have any symptoms.
  • You should avoid skin-to-skin contact with anyone for 24 hours after your treatment.
  • Children should not return to school or daycare until they have completed the recommended treatment.
  • If there are a lot of mites, you may need take an oral medication called ivermectin or apply the lotion a second time.
  • Your healthcare provider may recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine, steroid cream or calamine lotion to help with the itching.
  • Mites can live several days in clothing, towels and bedding. Any items that have come into contact with infected skin (clothes, linens and towels) should be washed in hot water and dried in the dryer on a high heat setting. You should also thoroughly vacuum your home.
  • Clothing that can't be laundered should be stored in bags for several days to give the mites time to die.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have been in close contact with someone that has scabies or you have symptoms of scabies. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms, how long you've had them, if you have had them before and if they are progressing or changing. You should also note if you have been in contact with someone that has scabies.

  • Before your appointment, make a list of the patients medical history, including past illnesses, surgeries and hospitalizations. List all medications (including over-the-counter) and any questions or concerns you want to discuss.
  • During your appointment, ask about your overall health, what symptoms you might have and when you may start to see improvement. Ask what the follow-up plans are, if any, and what symptoms you should report before your next appointment.
  • After your appointment, you should know the diagnosis. Make sure you understand your treatment plan, including possible alternatives, and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects).
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to take a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).


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