Scabies

What is Scabies?

Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition where the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis) burrows under the outer layer of skin to live and lay eggs. It is most often spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with an infected person and is not usually spread from a casual hug or handshake. It can spread rapidly when close body contact is common and in adults, scabies is often sexually acquired. Symptoms begin anywhere from a couple days to several weeks after exposure. Treatment from a provider is required to kill the infestation. Animals do not spread human scabies, and one cannot get scabies from a pet.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Intense itching or a pimple-like rash, usually around the wrist, elbow, armpit, webbing between the fingers, nipple, penis, waist, belt-line, and buttocks. The itching may last several weeks.
  • Tiny burrows in the skin may be visualized as tiny grayish lines where the female mites have tunneled under the skin to lay eggs

When to see a Provider:

If you have signs and symptoms listed above or have had a known exposure, see a provider as soon as possible for a prescription medication to kill the mites. There are no over-the-counter medications available to treat scabies. Once diagnosed, bedding, clothing and towels need to be decontaminated by machine washing in hot water and drying on the high heat setting or dry cleaned (as scabies mites die when exposed to higher temperatures within 15 minutes). Articles that can’t be cleaned will need to be removed from human contact for at least 72 hours and the mites will die on their own. When on a human, scabies mites can often survive for 1-2 months.

Prevention:

  • Eliminate prolonged bodily contact with infected persons

Resources: