What is scabies?

  • Scabies is a contagious skin infestation caused by a microscopic parasite known as the Sarcoptes scabiei. The parasite penetrates the skin, and then burrows into it and lays eggs.
  • Scabies don’t have serious health repercussions, and there are rarely any complications.

What are the symptoms?

  • People infested with scabies will have intense itching that is usually worse at night or on hot skin.
  • Symptoms also include a rash with tiny blisters or sores (small red pimples, white lines—called grooves—or skin lesions caused by scratching).
  • Symptoms are likely to occur between the fingers and on the wrists, and on the outside surfaces of the elbows and armpits; however, they can be found anywhere on the body.

How does it spread?

  • Scabies usually is spread by prolonged, repeated skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies.
  • Scabies can also be spread through infested clothes, bedding, or furniture. However, the risk is low.

How soon after infestation do symptoms of scabies begin?

  • After the initial exposure to scabies, it can take from two to six weeks for symptoms to appear. The symptoms usually develop more quickly in people who’ve had scabies before.
  • It is important to remember that an infested person can spread scabies during this time, even if they don’t have symptoms yet.

How is it treated?

  • Scabies is usually treated with a cream or lotion that contains 5% permethrin (Nix® or Kwellada-P®). The medicine is applied on the skin and left on for 12 to 14 hours, and then washed off.
  • These products are available over-the-counter and are often reimbursed with a doctor’s prescription.
  • The product must be applied correctly in all folds of the skin.

Who should be treated?

  • Anyone who is infested with scabies.
  • Members of the same household.
  • Persons who have had close contact with the infested person over a period of six weeks before the onset of symptoms.

What other precautions should you take at home?

  • Wash all clothes, bedding, and towels that have been in contact with the infested person in the 4 days before the start of the treatment. Use hot water, and use the hot cycle in a dryer for 20 minutes.
  • Non-washable items should be sealed in a plastic bag for 4 days.