Scabies Contagious Skin Infestation and Treatment

scabies and is it contagious

Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition caused by a tiny mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. These microscopic mites burrow into the top layer of the skin where they live and lay eggs. Scabies is transmitted through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or, less commonly, by sharing clothing, bedding, or towels. The primary mechanism of contagion is direct physical contact, making it a common concern in crowded living conditions and where personal hygiene is compromised.

Are there different types of scabies

Yes, there are different types of scabies. The most common form is known as typical scabies, which affects areas such as the wrists, elbows, and waist. Another, more severe form is called crusted scabies or Norwegian scabies, which is characterized by thick crusts of skin that contain a large number of mites and eggs. Crusted scabies is more common in people with weakened immune systems and can be more contagious due to the high number of mites present.

How common is scabies

Scabies is a global issue, affecting millions of people each year across all ages, races, and socioeconomic classes. It is particularly prevalent in densely populated areas with limited access to medical care and in environments where close contact is common, such as schools, nursing homes, and prisons. The World Health Organization considers scabies a neglected tropical disease due to its impact on disadvantaged populations.

What are the symptoms of scabies

scabies contagious

The primary symptoms of scabies include intense itching, especially at night, and a pimple-like rash. The itching is caused by an allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs, and their waste. Small burrows or tracks might also be visible on the skin, typically in the folds of the skin or between the fingers. The symptoms can take four to six weeks to appear in individuals who have never had scabies before but may manifest much sooner in those who have had it previously.

Where do scabies mites live on your body

Scabies mites prefer areas of the skin with folds and crevices. Common sites for these mites include between the fingers, around the wrists, elbows, armpits, waist, buttocks, genital area, and under the breasts in women. In infants and young children, scabies can also affect the head, face, neck, palms, and soles of the feet.

How do I know if I have scabies

Diagnosing scabies typically involves identifying the characteristic rash and intense itching, especially if it worsens at night. A definitive diagnosis can be made by a healthcare provider who may examine the skin closely, potentially using a microscope to look for mites, eggs, or mite fecal matter. Sometimes, a skin scraping or biopsy is performed to confirm the presence of mites.

Scabies Rash

The scabies rash is characterized by small, raised bumps that are often red and inflamed. These bumps can be widespread across the body or localized to areas where the mites have burrowed. The rash can lead to further skin complications if scratched excessively, such as secondary bacterial infections.

Intense Itching

Intense itching is one of the most distressing symptoms of scabies. It is primarily due to an allergic reaction to the proteins and feces of the mites. The itching tends to be worse at night and after a hot shower or bath, and can severely affect sleep and quality of life.

Can scabies spread from person to person

Yes, scabies can spread from person to person through prolonged skin-to-skin contact. It can also spread through contact with infested bedding, clothing, or furniture. Scabies is highly contagious, and prompt treatment is necessary to prevent further spread.

What should I do if I suspect scabies

scabies contagious

If you suspect you have scabies, you should see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. It’s also important to wash clothing, bedding, and towels in hot water and dry them on a high heat setting. Non-washable items should be sealed in a bag for at least 72 hours to kill any mites. Inform close contacts so they can be aware and seek treatment if necessary.

How is scabies diagnosed

Scabies is diagnosed through a combination of clinical evaluation and direct observation of the mites or their eggs. A healthcare provider may take a skin scraping to examine under a microscope. In cases where the diagnosis is uncertain, a dermatoscope may be used to identify mites directly on the skin.

Treating Scabies

Treating scabies involves using prescribed medications, typically topical creams such as permethrin or oral medications like ivermectin. All household members and close physical contacts should be treated simultaneously to prevent re-infestation. It’s essential to follow the treatment instructions carefully to ensure the elimination of the mites.

When will I get better from scabies

Improvement can be seen within a few days of starting treatment, but it may take several weeks for the itching and rash to completely resolve. It’s important to complete the full course of treatment even if symptoms appear to improve to ensure all mites and eggs are eradicated.

How can I prevent spreading scabies

Preventing the spread of scabies involves treating all affected individuals and their close contacts at the same time. Regularly washing bedding, clothing, and towels in hot water and drying them on a hot setting can help. Avoiding direct skin contact with infected individuals and maintaining good personal hygiene are also critical.

Final Thoughts

Scabies is a manageable condition with prompt and proper treatment. Awareness and education on the transmission and prevention of scabies can significantly reduce its spread. If you suspect you have scabies, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for recovery and preventing the infection from spreading to others.


Scabies is primarily transmitted through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It can also be spread by sharing clothing, bedding, or towels.
The first signs of scabies include intense itching, especially at night, and a pimple-like rash.
Over-the-counter products are not effective against scabies. Prescription medications, such as permethrin cream or oral ivermectin, are required for treatment.
Yes, scabies can be contagious before symptoms appear, especially since symptoms may take up to six weeks to develop in people who have never been infested before.
Scabies will not go away without treatment. The infestation will continue to spread and worsen over time if not treated.