What is Scabies?

By  , Expert Content
Apr 04, 2012

Scabies is a contagious skin infestation caused by mites (little bugs). The mites burrow under the skin and cause small red bumps and severe itching. The infestation can spread rampantly from one person to another, especially if they share close living spaces. As a result, if one member of a family gets infected with scabies mite, other family members and close contacts can also get infected.

The mites live in "burrows" or "tunnels” in the folds and narrow cracks of the skin. Although, any part of the body may be involved, some common mite sites are:

  • Web of fingers (folds in between the fingers and toes).
  • Bends at the wrists and knees.
  • Waist (area around the belt line).
  • Under fingernails.
  • Folds in thighs and genitals.
  • Under rings, watch bands and bracelets.
  • In women, in the area around the nipples.

Who gets scabies?

Anyone can get scabies. It doesn’t limit itself to only people with poor hygiene. Some factors that increase the risk of getting scabies include:

  • Living in close and crowded conditions.
  • Infants and children (as they tend to have lot of close, physical contact with other people including their mother, parents, friends, family members and classmates.)
  • Elderly (especially if they live in nursing homes).
  • Health care workers (without being aware they can come in contact with a person, who has scabies).

Symptoms of scabies: Symptoms of scabies are:

  • Intense itching (which is more severe at night).
  • Skin rash (appear as tiny red bumps that look like bites or pimples).
  • Intense itch, which disturbs sleep or leads to loss of sleep.

The symptoms start about four to six weeks after getting infected with the mite. If you are exposed to any one with scabies, get rechecked up to six weeks after you think you may have been exposed or if you develop symptoms.


Treatment of scabies: Scabies is treated with topical medications (cream that contains a medicine). Apply the cream as directed by your health care provider. The medication has to be applied on the whole body below the head including the hands, palms and soles of the feet. In some cases like children with scabies, the doctor may recommend applying some types of cream on scalp as well. Before applying the medicine, ensure that the skin is clean and dry. After being left on for a few hours, the cream is washed off (most creams have to be applied at night and washed off in the morning). Some people may have itching for a few weeks after the infestation is cleared. The doctor may prescribe antihistamines (medicine taken by the mouth) or creams to relieve itching. All the members of a family should be checked and treated for scabies.



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