Everything You Need to Know About Scabies

What is Scabies?

Scabies can be simply explained as a bug infestation under the skin. It is caused by a very tiny human mite scientifically known as Sarcoptes scabiei. This tiny bug digs under the skin in search of food and lays eggs. Once it crawls under the skin laying eggs, our immune system detects its presence, causing itching and rashes. Sometimes scabies meaning is misunderstood with rabies as they sound the same. Scabies disease is a contagious meaning it can travel from person to person. 

As per the World Health Organisation, there are 200 million suffering from at any given time. Nearly 400 million people contract scabies every year via various routes as it is a contagious disease. 

Scabies is commonly found in developing and poorly resourced countries and commonly attack children. The prevalence of scabies in children in such countries varies from 5 to 50%. 

Types of Scabies

In humans, scabies is caused by only one type of mite but its manifestations are different. These manifestations lead to different types. Let’s go through these types one by one:

1. Classic scabies: This is the most common type, and its manifestation is an itchy rash on hands, wrists, and a few other body regions. 

2. Nodular scabies: This type of scabies causes a rash that appears as red bumps. These bumps are itchy and can be found in areas such as the genitals, armpits, and groin

3. Norwegian scabies: This type is the most harmful and contagious. In this type of scabies, thick crusts form on the skin. These crusts contain thousands of mites and eggs, making it more severe. If you come in contact with a person carrying this type, the chances of you getting contracted scabies are very high.

Causes of Scabies

You might usually wonder what causes scabies. The main cause of scabies is only one- human itch mite. Once you contract it, then it can spread to everyone coming in contact with you. The most common causes of scabies are:

  • Direct contact with the infected person 
  • Direct contact with the infested objects like furniture, towels, bedding

Do animals spread scabies? The answer is no. There is a misconception that animals spread scabies, but that is not true. Scabies found in animals is different and do not spread from them to us. 

Read Also: Itching without a rash: causes, symptoms and treatment

Symptoms of Scabies

Once the mite gets on to your skin, it takes time for you to develop scabies symptoms. If you have contracted scabies before the symptoms are within a day or two since your immune symptoms are already exposed to the bug. But if you contract the scabies for the first time, you might take two to five weeks to develop symptoms.

 The most common symptoms of scabies are:

  • Itching: It is the most common symptom and gets worse at night. The itching in scabies can keep you awake at night.
  • Rashes: Scabies is also characterized by a rash, which can look like a line. Some may develop scaly patches that resemble those in eczema
  • Sores: Once you develop a rash, it may turn into sores and, after scratching it, into a scabies infection. 
  • Thick crusts: Thick crusts can be seen in the severe type of scabies.

Risk Factors for Scabies

The things that can make someone more likely to get scabies and spread it are:

  • Living in hot and humid places.
  • Living in crowded areas, like places with a lot of poverty or too many people in one place.
  • Being in places where there’s a lot of contact with others, like hospitals, schools, or jails.
  • Having a weakened immune system, like HIV or taking certain medicines for a long time.
  • Touching things that have scabies on them, like shared clothes or materials (this is mostly for a severe type of scabies).
  • Going to places where scabies is common, especially in hot countries with lots of humidity.

Read Also: 12 Easy and Effective Home Remedies for Ear Itching

Treatment for Scabies

For scabies, there are effective treatments available. The first-line scabies treatment recommended by doctors is Permethrin 5% cream or lotion, which you can get without a prescription. This treatment is specifically for classic scabies.

However, it’s important to know that the treatment might not kill all the eggs, so it’s necessary to repeat it seven to ten days later to catch any newly hatched larvae. It’s like giving a second round to make sure all the scabies are gone. 

Not only the person affected but also everyone living in the same house should be treated. Scabies is highly contagious, and treating only one person might not be enough to stop it from spreading.

Some people might experience more itching after using permethrin in the first few days. But don’t worry—it’s common and can be managed with other treatments like topical crotamiton. It’s just temporary as your body gets rid of the scabies.

Some other medicines used for the treatment of scabies are:

  • A lotion with 25% benzyl benzoate
  • An ointment with 10% sulfur
  • A cream with 10% crotamiton
  • A lotion with 1% Lindane

Tips for Managing Scabies

Managing scabies can be tough, but there are a few steps you can take to ease symptoms and prevent spreading:

  • Medication: Use prescribed creams or lotions as directed by your doctor to kill scabies mites.
  • Clean environment: Washing bedding, clothes, and towels in hot water and vacuuming your home can remove mites.
  • Avoid close contact: To prevent the spread of scabies, avoid close contact (e.g., touching) with others until treatment is complete.
  • Family treatment: To prevent reinfestation, treat everyone in your household, even if they don’t have symptoms.
  • Follow-up: Follow up with your doctor to ensure scabies is fully treated.

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Prevention of Scabies

As mentioned in the management section, scabies can be prevented by avoiding direct contact with individuals whom you doubt have scabies. It’s also best to avoid using bed sheets, clothes, or other personal items of a person with scabies. 

The human itch mites that cause scabies can live up to 72 hours on objects; hence, it’s best to wash and dry all the clothes, bed sheets, and other items with which a person with mites comes in contact. 


Scabies is a skin condition that causes tiny human itch mites that are not visible to the naked eye. Although these mites can live up to three days outside, they can live up to three months on human skin. 

Topical creams and lotions are available, some of which are also over-the-counter. Knowing about the causes, types, symptoms, and treatment of scabies can help with scabies prevention and management. 

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Disclaimer: The information in this article is checked for accuracy, but it’s best to talk to a doctor before trying any medicines, supplements or information mentioned here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the main cause of scabies?

The main cause of scabies is a tiny bug known as the human itch mite also scientifically known as Sarcoptes scabies.

What kills scabies?

Permethrin is a topical medicine used to kill scabies mites and their eggs. Before using this medicine for scabies, consult your doctor.

Is scabies a serious problem?

Scabies can be a severe skin condition if not managed properly. Proper awareness and treatment are essential for the complete elimination of this skin condition.

How long can scabies last?

Scabies can last for several weeks and also months if treated properly. Even after the complete treatment, your doctor can prescribe lotions to avoid recurrence.

What soap is good for scabies?

Any mild, fragrance-free scope can help you with scabies. Try to avoid very strong soap, as it can lead to itching and irritation. Always consult your doctor before using any soap for the best options.

Can lemon remove scabies?

Although lemon has antiseptic properties, it is not proven to remove scabies from the skin. Consult your doctor for the best treatment.

Why is scabies worse at night?

Mites are more active at night plus our body temperature is warm around that time. These both factors can lead to more itching and worsening of scabies during nighttime.