About Scabies

Scabies is caused by mites that infest the skin. The mites will burrow into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays eggs.

How is it transmitted?

Scabies are spread through close contact with someone, or from sharing towels, bed sheets and other personal belongings. Scabies often affects several family members (or roommates) at the same time because of close cohabitation. Scabies can be spread to another person before symptoms show. Close contact must be prolonged for scabies to spread. A quick handshake or a hug usually will not spread scabies. Scabies is easily spread to sexual partners.

Signs and Symptoms

Scabies causes itching that is usually worse at night. It may cause a pimple-like rash with tiny blisters or sores. If a person has never had scabies before, symptoms may take 2-6 weeks to appear. Scabies can be spread during this time.


Scabies will not go away on its own. Products used to treat scabies are called scabicides because they kill scabies mites; some also kill mite eggs. Scabicides used to treat human scabies are available only with a doctor’s prescription. No “over-the-counter” (non-prescription) products have been tested and approved to treat scabies.


Scabies is prevented by avoiding direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or with items such as clothing or bedding used by an infected person. Scabies mites do not survive more than 2-3 days away from human skin. Items such as bedding, clothing, and towels used by a person with scabies can be decontaminated by machine-washing in hot water and drying using the hot cycle or by dry-cleaning. Items that cannot be washed or dry-cleaned can be decontaminated by sealing the items in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours.



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(updated 1/15/2016)