Scabies is caused by the Sarcoptes scarbiei mite. It causes a rash so itchy that it interrupts sleep. It can be treated with certain ointments or pills.
Scabies is a skin condition caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis mite. These little bugs make tunnels (burrow) under your skin and cause small red bumps and severe itching. Scabies spreads easily from person to person, especially among people who live close together. If one family member has scabies, a provider should check and treat other family members and close contacts at the same time.
Scabies is a worldwide problem but happens most often in tropical areas and in very crowded places.
Scabies is also known as sarcoptic mange. Animals can also get scabies, but the mites are slightly different. Usually, the mites that affect pets can’t adapt to living on humans. However, you might have some type of reaction to mites on your pet.
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The mites live in the folds and narrow cracks of your skin. Common mite sites include:
Anyone can get scabies. It’s not a disease caused by poor hygiene. Some people are more likely to get scabies, including:
Yes, there are different forms in addition to the classic form. Other types include:
You can be infected with scabies for four to six weeks before having the early symptoms of the red rash and bumps. The tiny spots might look like bumps or pimples.
The rash spreads slowly over a period of weeks or months. In addition to the rash, signs and symptoms of scabies include:
Children with scabies may have itching all over their bodies and might be cranky or tired from lack of sleep due to itching at night.
If you think you or your child has scabies, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Most cases of scabies can be confirmed just by looking closely at the skin. Your healthcare provider may also apply mineral oil to the rash and use a scalpel to get a small sample of skin (scraping). The sample is placed under a microscope and examined for mites and mite eggs.
The scabies mite is very small, about the size of the tip of a needle and very difficult to see. It’s white to creamy-white in color. It has eight legs and a round body, which you can see if the mite is magnified.
Your healthcare provider must order a cream that contains a medicine called permethrin to treat scabies. The cream is applied to your whole body below your head, including the hands, palms, and soles of the feet.
In children with scabies, the cream may need to be applied to the scalp. Be sure that skin is clean, cool and dry before applying the cream.
Permethrin cream is left on the skin for eight to 14 hours and then washed off. (The cream is most often applied at night and washed off in the morning.)
Ivermectin is another option for treating scabies. This is an antiparasitic pill given in a single dose, followed by a second dose one to two weeks later.
If you’re pregnant or lactating, you shouldn’t use ivermectin. If your child weighs less than 35 pounds (15 kilograms), they shouldn’t use ivermectin.
Your provider might also suggest antihistamines, which can be taken by mouth and as a cream, to relieve itching. Your provider will also treat any type of infection that may be present.
The mites that cause scabies are killed after one treatment. The treatment doesn’t need to be repeated unless the infection doesn’t go away or comes back.
The itching may take two to four weeks to go away, even though the mites have been killed.
Red bumps on the skin should go away within four weeks after treatment.
You can prevent spreading scabies by:
Your child can return to school the day after treatment.
Yes. You can get scabies any time that you come into close contact with an infected person.
Call your healthcare provider if:
Scabies and eczema are both skin conditions that give you itchy red rashes. However, scabies is caused by a parasite, a mite that invades your body. Sometimes you can see patterns that look like lines where the burrows are.
Eczema is a type of rash with an unknown cause. It can come and go seasonally. It can show up as red spots or weeping blisters. Unlike scabies, eczema isn’t contagious. Eczema treatments are designed to manage your symptoms. Scabies treatments rid your body of the mites.
If you have a rash that is red and itches, contact your healthcare provider. It’s important to catch scabies as soon as possible so you can get rid of them and not infect other people. If it’s eczema, your provider can suggest remedies that will help your symptoms.
No, scabies won’t go away on its own. If you don’t treat it, you’ll probably continue to spread the disease to other people. In addition, the constant itching will probably lead to constant scratching and will cause some type of bacterial infection of the skin.
Scabies is treatable, but they can be hard to get rid of completely. Certain forms of scabies are harder to treat, such as the crusted form. In addition, you might need more than one round of treatment to make sure all of the mites are gone.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have a rash and it’s so itchy that you can’t sleep, make sure you contact your healthcare provider. You may have scabies, which is an infectious disease. You and other people close to you should be tested and treated. You’ll want to contact your healthcare provider if you have any kind of skin rash that doesn’t go away and that causes problems for you. Scabies, like many other types of red itchy rashes, can be treated successfully.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/23/2022.
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