A mite causes this common skin condition. This eight-legged bug is so small that you cannot see it on the skin. People get scabies when the mite burrows into the top layer of skin to live, feed and reproduce. When the skin reacts to the mite or its products, an extremely itchy rash develops. This mite can travel from the infected person to another person and therefore is contagious; but you cannot get this from an animal. Most people get scabies from direct, skin-to-skin contact. Less often, people pick up mites from infested items such as bedding, clothes, and furniture. Most people will not get scabies from a handshake or hug. The skin-to-skin contact must be long enough for a mite to crawl from one person to another. Adults often get scabies through sexual contact. The mite can survive for about 48 to 72 hours without human contact. Scabies affects people of all ages, races, and income levels, and does not mean someone is ‘dirty.’

After the mite burrows into the skin, it takes time to develop signs and symptoms. If a person has had scabies before, the itching usually begins within 1 to 4 days. When a person has not had scabies, the body needs time to develop a reaction to the mite. It can take 2 to 6 weeks to develop symptoms. Symptoms include severe itching especially at night, a rash that can look similar to eczema, and may develop into thick crusts on the skin. The rash is common on the hands (especially between the fingers), arms, elbows, wrists and skin covered by clothing or jewelry. In children, the rash can appear as pus filled bumps on the sole, or in the diaper area. Babies with scabies are very irritable and often do not want to ear or sleep.

◦ A dermatologist can often diagnose scabies by visually examining a patient’s skin from head to toe. The dermatologist may scrape off a tiny bit of skin to look at it under a microscope. If your dermatologist sees scabies mites or their eggs, it is certain that you have scabies.
◦ Treatment options include weekly topical medicated cream applications or oral medications. It is imperative to follow the doctor’s instructions, and to wash all recently used clothing and bedding in hot water the next day.
◦ Most people can be cured with a topical medicine that they apply to their skin. These medicines are often applied to all skin from the neck down at bedtime, and washed off in the morning. Infants and young children often need treatment for their scalp and face, too.
◦ Treatment can get rid of the mites, eliminate symptoms such as itch, and treat an infection that has developed. For the first few days to a week, the rash and itch can worsen during treatment. Within 4 weeks, your skin should heal.
◦ If your skin has not healed within 4 weeks, you may still have mites. Some people need to treat 2 or 3 times to get rid of the mites. Be sure to see your dermatologist for treatment.