What is Scabies?


Scabies is a skin infection caused by Sarcoptes scabiei, a parasitic infection that results from mites burrowing under the skin. It occurs in all populations but is associated with higher rates in young children and the elderly as well as those who are living in overcrowded conditions or poverty. Multiple family members may be affected at any one time and it is more severe in those who are immunocompromised.


What are the symptoms?


Scabies is characterised by a red skin rash with spots of various sizes that may looks like insect bites. The rash can develop on any part of your body i.e. between your fingers and toes, on your wrist, inside your elbows, around your waist, and on your bottom. Children often get a rash all over their body whilst adults do not get a rash on their head or neck.

Scabies causes a wide spread itch, even if the rash is only in certain areas, due to the body’s immune response to the mites i.e. like an allergic reaction. It is a very itchy rash that is worse at bedtime or when you’re warm. If the rash is scratched, the spots may become crusty and there is potential for these spots to become infected with bacteria. It usually takes 3-4 weeks after coming into contact with scabies for these signs and symptoms appear.


How does scabies spread?


The mites only spread via prolonged close contact with an infected person i.e. sexual intercourse or living in an overcrowded environment, as they only live on people. They can survive for a short period of time on clothing, sheets, and/or towels and but it is very unlikely to catch scabies in this way.

To reduce the risk of contracting scabies, the following precautions are advised:

  • Avoid close contact with infected persons
  • Avoid contact with sheets, clothing and/or towels used by infected persons

There are effective treatments for scabies so talk to your doctor if you are concerned about you or any of your family having scabies.