What is scabies?
Scabies is an infestation of mites (tiny insects) characterized by small, red bumps
and intense itching. This highly contagious infection often spreads from person to
person while they are sleeping together in the same bed, or during close, personal
contact. The itching is caused by the mites burrowing into the skin where they lay
eggs that hatch a few days later. Scabies can affect people of all ages and social
classes. It is common all over the world. Scabies happens mostly in children and young
What are the symptoms of scabies?
It may take between 4 to 6 weeks for a person to develop symptoms of scabies after
coming in contact with an infected person.
In children younger than 2 years of age, the lesions caused by the mites tend to happen
on the head, neck, palms, and soles. In older children and adults, the lesions are
usually on the hands, between the fingers, wrists, belt line, thighs, belly button,
in the groin area, around the breasts, and in the armpits. The following are the most
common symptoms of scabies. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.
Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of scabies may resemble other skin conditions. Always talk with your
healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is scabies diagnosed?
In diagnosing scabies, the skin and skin crevices are examined by your healthcare
provider. A sample of skin, obtained by scraping the skin, may be examined under a
microscope to confirm the presence of mites.
Treatment for scabies
Specific treatment for scabies will be determined by your healthcare provider based
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the infestation
Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the infestation
Your opinion or preference
Scabies is treatable and usually all members in a family are treated at the same time.
Treatment may include:
Applications of prescription creams and lotions, such as permethrin and lindane solutions
An oral medicine called ivermectin may be used for severe cases
Oral antihistamine medicine (to help relieve itching)
In some cases, other topical ointments are recommended
In addition, it is important to wash all clothes and bedding in hot water and dry
in a hot dryer. Clothing and other objects that cannot be washed (for example, pillows,
stuffed animals) should be placed in a plastic bag for at least 1 week. This will
kill any mites on or in these objects. The itching may continue for many weeks after
the initial treatment of the scabies.