Scabies is an infectious skin condition caused by human itch mite infestation and characterized by itchiness and a pimple-like rash. Scabies can be spread from person to person by prolonged direct skin to skin contact with someone who has scabies. It can also spread through contact with infested clothes, bedding, and furniture. Scabies is especially prone to spread in families, childcare facilities, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and anywhere close contact is inevitable. Crusted scabies, or Norwegian scabies, is simply a severe form of scabies in immunocompromised individuals, who may not show the characteristic skin rash associated with scabies.
Scabies is caused by the human skin mite sarcoptes scabiei, which burrows into the top layer of human skin and lays its eggs. The larvae from the eggs then mature and spread to other individuals through prolonged skin to skin contact. The itching sensation associated with scabies is the body’s allergic reaction to the skin mites, and anyone can be infected with scabies. Scabies does not typically spread through hugs or handshakes but rather through prolonged contact, such as adults participating in sexual intercourse.
Symptoms of scabies include:
Itching, especially at night
Papular, pimple-like rash that may include blisters and scales
Thick skin crusts (in patients with crusted scabies)
Sores caused by scratching that may become infected
Scabies is typically treated with scabicides that kill the skin mites. Scabicides come in the form of creams and lotions and can only be prescribed by a doctor or other healthcare professional. The itching may continue for several weeks after treatment, and household contacts and recent sexual partners should also be treated for scabies preventatively. Your doctor may also recommend soaking in cool water or using soothing lotion to reduce itching, and they may also prescribe an antihistamine to help with itchiness. It is also important to wash all clothes, bedding, and towels in hot water and in a hot dryer after a scabies infection. It is also important to vacuum your entire home if you or a member of your household have been infected with scabies.
To prevent scabies, it is important to wash all clothes, bedding, and furniture regularly, especially in hot water or in a hot dryer. It is also important to clean and vacuum your home on a regular basis.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. (n.d.). Scabies: Overview. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/scabies-overview.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 1). Scabies frequently asked questions (FAQs). https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/gen_info/faqs.html.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, August 25). Scabies. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scabies/symptoms-causes/syc-20377378.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020, September 29). Scabies. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/scabies.html.