Scabies is caused by tiny insects (mites) that burrow under the upper layer of the skin, laying eggs as they go.

Symptoms

  • tiny blisters surrounded by red patches form above the eggs – these are very itchy. There may also be tiny lines on the skin and scratch marks
  • itching is often intense, especially at night
  • a rash may be widespread but is most commonly found between fingers, wrists, elbows, armpits, waist, buttocks (bottom) and groin (private parts)

How is it spread?

Scabies spreads easily to other people through:

  • direct skin contact with the infected person (eg, holding hands, hugging, sharing a bed)
  • sharing clothes, towels and bedding (however scabies mites do not live in furniture or carpets)

A scabies rash and itch may start a few days after contact with an affected person, but it can also take as long as six weeks.

Anyone can catch scabies – personal hygiene levels are not a factor.

 

Treatment

It is important to treat scabies as scratching may lead to serious skin infections

  • you need to use a special cream or lotion - ask your public health nurse, GP/practice nurse or pharmacist for advice
  • everyone living in the house must be treated at the same time even if they are not itchy
  • the itchiness may continue for another four weeks once the treatment is finished.

How long is the person infectious?

A person with scabies is infectious until 24 hours after treatment has started.