Scabies occurs when microscopic mites bury themselves in human skin, resulting in itching and irritation. The condition is characterized by an itchy rash that can appear anywhere on the body. In some cases, these rashes may appear scaled or blistered. It is very contagious and usually spreads throughout shared households.
Who gets Scabies?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, some people are more likely than others to get scabies. Children, mothers of young children, sexually active adults and nursing home residents are especially at risk for contracting it. People who have a weakened immune system are also thought to be at higher risk. In fact, people with a weakened immune system are susceptible to an extreme form of scabies called Norwegian scabies.
According to the CDC, this involves thick crusts of skin that contain a large amount of mites and eggs. These crusted scabies are highly contagious. In some cases of scabies, female mites will burrow underneath the skin, leaving a visible trail behind. In other instances, the condition may resemble pimples.
Symptoms and treatment
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms can take as long as four to six weeks to begin. Scabies is contracted through direct and prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone who already has it. In other words, casual contact (like hugs or handshakes) will not spread it. But sharing a bed or clothes, or living in the same household will. Scabies can also not be spread from animals to people. Once scabies mites latch on, they can survive on a person for as long as one to two months.
While uncomfortable, scabies is a common, treatable condition. Prompt treatment is important since scratching itchy areas can lead to a bacteria infection. Once diagnosed, treatment involves prescription cream medication. Immediately washing all bedding, clothes, towels and washcloths is highly recommended.