Scabies

Scabies is an infestation of small mites that burrow under the skin. It can be spread through sex and other skin-to-skin contact. Scabies can also be spread through contact with the clothing, towels and bedding of someone infested with scabies. People are not at risk for contracting scabies mites from an animal.

If left untreated, the infested area will continue to itch. Repeated scratching can result in serious skin infections.

Symptoms

Scabies can cause:

  • Intense itching of the skin, which is usually worse at night. Affected areas usually include:
    • Wrists
    • Arms
    • Elbows
    • Knees
    • Genitals
    • Between the fingers
    • Around the waist
    • Between the buttocks
    • Under arms
  • Skin issues, such as:
    • Red patches
    • Pimples
    • Bumps
    • Rash
    • Blisters
    • Short, dark lines across the skin
    • Thickening of the skin (crust) that can form with a very serious infestation

Prevention

To reduce your chance of infestation:

  • Avoid physical contact with someone who has recently been diagnosed with scabies
  • Wear clean clothes and do not share clothes or towels with others
  • Wash bedding and towels frequently
  • Vacuum all carpets and upholstered furniture

Testing

Your health care provider will test for scabies by applying mineral oil to your skin, scraping the skin and examining the sample under a microscope.

Treatment

Your health care provider will prescribe medicated lotion that can cure scabies. The lotion is typically left on the body for eight to 14 hours and then washed off.

Clothing, bedding and towels should be machine-washed and dried on a hot cycle. Any other items that cannot be washed should be sealed in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours.

Sex Partners and Household Members

Your sex partner(s) from the past six weeks also need to be examined and treated so they do not re-infest you or pass on the infestation to others.

Household members — including children — should also be treated, even if they do not have symptoms.

Scabies in Pregnancy

There are no known harmful effects of having scabies during pregnancy. Some medicated lotions used to treat scabies could be dangerous to an unborn baby. Tell your health care provider if you are pregnant or breastfeeding when you seek treatment for scabies.

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