Scabies

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scabiesScabies is a mite (tiny insect) that burrows into the skin. An itchy rash is caused when a female mite burrows into a person’s skin to lay her eggs.

Who gets scabies?

Anyone can get scabies. There are probably millions of people with scabies. However, people with more sex partners have a greater risk of getting scabies.

How is scabies spread?

Scabies are spread through close personal contact, including close skin to skin contact with a sexual partner. It’s also spread by using the unwashed bed linen, clothes, or towels of an infected person.

What are the signs and symptoms of scabies?

The burrows that mites make are usually hard to see. They are thread-line ridges 5-15 mm long. The scabies mite usually burrows into the skin such as the wrists, the webs of the fingers, the abdomen, buttocks, and genital areas. Small blisters might show up at the end of burrows.

Four to six weeks after exposure to the scabies mite, the burrows become raised and intense itching occurs, especially when the person becomes warm in bed, or after exercise or a hot shower or bath. The symptoms will appear quicker (often within hours after exposure, but within 1-4 days) in people who have had scabies before. Scratching the burrows can cause infection. A rash or bumps can appear anywhere on the skin, but particularly between the fingers, inside the wrists, in the creases under the buttocks, in the creases of the abdomen, and around the genitals. The bumps can become inflamed, crusty, or hard.

How is scabies diagnosed?

You should see your health care provider if you think you have scabies. He/she will diagnose scabies by a physical examination of the rash. Your health care provider may sometimes take a scraping of the rash to look under the microscope to look for mites, fecal matter from the mite, mite eggs, or parts of eggs.

How is scabies treated?

Scabies is treated by oral or topical prescription medications. There are also special creams, lotions, or shampoos that you can buy in a drug store, but you should talk to your health care provider about what’s best for you. If you’ve never had scabies, definitely make sure you talk to your health care provider before trying to treat yourself. Even after you finish treatment and the scabies mite is dead, you could have itching for a while (often for weeks). If you scratch a lot, you may get an infection. If you get an infection, you should see your health care provider.

How can I prevent spreading scabies?

If you have scabies, avoid close body contact with others. You should get treatment right away to prevent spreading them to others. To kill the mites and eggs, wash your clothes and bed linens in hot water, or dry-clean or press them with a very hot iron. You can also put items in a bag for 72 hours so that the mites die. This will kill the insects and eggs. If you find out you have scabies, you need to tell your sex partner(s) or anyone you have had close contact with or has shared your bed linens, clothes, or towels. These people should be treated even if they don’t have an itch or a rash.

How can I avoid getting scabies?

You have a much lower chance of getting scabies if you have only one sex partner (who doesn’t have scabies). Condoms do not prevent scabies. Try not to use other people’s clothing or bedding. As soon as you think you have scabies, talk to your health care provider and get treated right away.