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What is scabies?

Scabies is a skin rash caused by mites that go under the skin and lay eggs. Mites are parasites.

Symptoms of scabies

The common symptom is a very itchy rash. The rash is often found on the hands, wrists, elbows, armpits, breasts, waist and genital area. The rash looks like red bumps or small blisters that form a line. Symptoms begin two to six weeks after being in contact with the mites.

Spread of scabies

Scabies is spread through close contact with a person who has scabies. Examples of how you can get scabies are: direct skin contact like touching, holding hands, sexual contact. Scabies can also be spread through sharing clothing, towels, and bed sheets recently used by a person with scabies. The mites die within 48 hours if they are away from the human body. Scabies can spread quickly in crowded situations where there is often skin-to-skin contact, like in hospitals, day care centers, nursing homes. People cannot get scabies from animals.

Who can get scabies?

Anyone can get scabies rash.

Treatment of scabies

If you have symptoms of scabies, see your health care provider for treatment. Follow instructions for treatment, which is usually a prescribed medicated cream or lotion. You may continue to have itching for up to two weeks after treatment but it does not mean that the medication did not work. Ask your health care provider if a second treatment is needed. Clothing, towels and bedding used two days before your treatment should be washed and dried on hot cycles or dry cleaned.

How to prevent the spread of scabies

  • Children with scabies should stay home from school or day care until 24 hours after starting treatment.
  • Do not share clothing, bedding or other personal items with a person with scabies.
  • Clothing that cannot be hot washed or dry cleaned should be put away for several days so the mites can die after 48 hours away from the human body.
  • All household members and close contacts of the person with scabies should be treated at the same time as the person with scabies.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information.