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Scabies

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Learn more about scabies: introduction

Scabies is very common and anyone can get it. It should be treated quickly to stop it spreading.

Check if it's scabies

One of the first symptoms is intense itching, especially at night.

Silvery lines on a hand caused by scabies mites
Tiny mites lay eggs in the skin, leaving silvery lines with a dot at one end.
A scabies rash on the hand
The rash can appear anywhere, but it often starts between the fingers.
Red spots on the skin caused by scabies
The rash spreads and turns into tiny red spots.

The scabies rash usually spreads across the whole body – apart from the head.

Elderly people, young children and those with a weakened immune system may also develop a rash on their head and neck.

When it's not scabies

Many other things can cause itchy skin and rashes in babies and children.

A pharmacist can help with scabies

Scabies is not usually a serious condition, but it does need to be treated.

A pharmacist will recommend a cream or lotion that you apply over your whole body. It's important to read the instructions carefully.

You'll need to repeat the treatment 1 week later.

Scabies is very infectious but it can take up to 8 weeks for the rash to appear.

Everyone in the household needs to be treated at the same time – even if they don't have symptoms.

Anyone you’ve had sexual contact with in the past 8 weeks should also be treated.

Find a pharmacy

Things you can do during treatment to stop scabies spreading

Do

  • wash all bedding and clothing in the house at 50C or higher on the first day of treatment
  • put clothing that can't be washed in a sealed bag for 3 days until the mites die
  • stop babies and children sucking treatment from their hands by putting socks or mittens on them

Don't

  • have sex or close physical contact until you've completed the full course of treatment
  • share bedding, clothing or towels with someone with scabies

How long it takes to get rid of scabies

You or your child can go back to work or school 24 hours after the first treatment.

Although the treatment kills the scabies mites quickly the itching can carry on for a few weeks.

See a GP if:

  • your skin is still itching 4 weeks after treatment has finished

Scabies can spread easily

Scabies are passed from person to person by skin-to-skin contact. You can't get scabies from pets.

People who live or work closely together in nurseries, university halls of residence, or nursing homes are more at risk.

Anyone can get scabies – it has nothing to do with poor hygiene.

Complications of scabies

Scratching the rash can cause skin infections like impetigo.

Scabies can make conditions like eczema or psoriasis worse.

Content supplied by NHS Choices