There are some bugs who love to give you hugs. So to speak. One type that lives to get closer to you is scabies. Scabies is a highly contagious but curable, itchy rash that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by the infection of the skin by a tiny mite just barely visible to the naked eye. The scabies mite burrows under the skin and causes severe itching and a rash which clears up in 2-6 weeks if treatment instructions are followed.
Scabies can happen to anybody. Although most common in warm climates, scabies can occur anywhere and within all social and economic levels. It is easily transmitted from person to person through close physical contact, such as between family members, sexual partners or children playing at school. An unproven but possible method of transmission is via infected clothing, bedding and towels. It is not carried on or caught by animals.
Scabies often affects several household members at the same time. You can spread it to another person before you have symptoms. If this is the first time you have had scabies, it may be several weeks before you have itching and skin sores. But if you have had it before, symptoms will probably start in a few days.
The most common symptoms of scabies, itching and a skin rash, are caused by sensitization (a type of “allergic” reaction) to the proteins and feces of the parasite. Severe itching (pruritus), especially at night, is the earliest and most common symptom of scabies. A pimple-like (papular) itchy (pruritic) “scabies rash” is also common. Itching and rash may affect much of the body.
Your health care provider diagnoses scabies by looking at the skin rash and finding burrows in the skin. Several lotions are available to treat scabies. The infected person's clothes, bedding and towels should be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer. Treatment is also recommended for household members and sexual partners.