What is Scabies and What Are Its Symptoms?

What is Scabies and What Are Its Symptoms?

Everything You Need to Know About Scabies

If you’re suddenly feeling itchy and it’s keeping you up at night then don’t just write it off to the new fabric softener you used on your sheets!

If you notice little silver burrows or red patches on your skin, then you could be dealing with something a little creepier than your average rash.

Scabies is a common and easily treatable condition that can happen to anyone, so let’s take a look at it in detail and see if these little mites are keeping you up at night.

What is scabies?

Scabies is a common condition which happens when scabies mites start to infest your skin.

When you have scabies, you’ll notice the symptoms showing up all over your body, except your head, although elderly people and children may see symptoms on their head too.

And yes, when we say everywhere, we MEAN everywhere (hey, nobody said this was pleasant).

When the scabies mites get onto your skin, they’ll start to burrow, laying their eggs in the tracks they leave behind.

If scabies isn’t treated, these eggs can hatch and the cycle will begin all over again – and if that won’t convince you to get treatment, nothing will!

Here's a look at one of those mites under a microscope.

What are the symptoms of scabies?

There are some distinct symptoms you’ll notice when you’re dealing with scabies.

One of the first signs of scabies is an itching sensation as the mites burrow into your skin and lay their eggs, and as your skin reacts to the mite droppings left behind.

This itching gets more intense at night, when your skin is warmer, and it will usually start 4 – 6 weeks after the initial infestation.

Once the mites have got to work, you might notice their silver coloured burrows in your skin.

They’re usually around a centimetre long, and have a dot at the end where the mite entered the skin.

After the itching begins, the next symptom you’ll experience will usually be a rash.

This rash is made up of small red dots and larger crusty patches can develop if you make a habit of scratching your skin.

What does a scabies rash look like?

Scabies pictures aren’t always the most pleasant things to look at, and trust me, if you search for it online then you might want to wash your eyes out with soap afterwards.

However, if you think you might have scabies, you’re probably going to want to see what it looks like in real life so you’ll know what you’re dealing with.

We’ve found one of the tamest pictures of a scabies burrow so you can see what they look like without getting too grossed out, but if you’re squeamish, you’re going to want to scroll past really quickly right now and think of cute, fluffy, animals.

Is scabies contagious?

Scabies is a contagious infection, and it can be passed from person to person if they have skin-to-skin contact.

If you work in an area with a lot of other people or are in a job like caring or nursery nursing, where you have to have physical contact with people every day, then you may be more at risk of scabies than usual.

People who live in university halls, dormitories, nursing homes, and other places like this may find that they’re more at risk of scabies too.

Scabies is similar to head lice, in that the mites have nothing to do with bad hygiene and can be passed to anyone, regardless of how clean they are.

How can I treat scabies?

When you have scabies your first stop should be your doctor. They’ll be able to prescribe a cream or lotion or send you to a pharmacist to buy the recommended treatment.

One of the most popular scabies treatments you can pick up over the counter from your pharmacy is permethrin, which is the active ingredient in Lyclear Dermal Cream.

You’ll apply this cream all over your body, except your head if the infestation hasn’t spread that far, and leave the cream on for up to 12 hours before washing off.

This single treatment will usually clear your infestation, but you’ll usually be advised to repeat the treatment after a week to make sure you’ve caught any mites that weren’t hatched.

If you live with anyone, then you should all be treated at the same time, even if the people you live with aren’t showing any symptoms of scabies.

This will help to keep the infection from spreading any further.

Are there any home remedies for scabies?

There aren’t any home remedies that will get rid of a scabies infection entirely, but there are a few things you can do to keep scabies from spreading if you live with someone who has it.

For starters, wash any clothing or bedding that was used before or on the first day of your treatment at 50 degrees C or above, this will help to terminate any mites clinging to the fabric.

If your clothes can’t be washed at high temperatures, place them in a sealed plastic bag and leave them there for at least 3 days, which will be enough time for the mites to die.

Make sure you don’t share clothing, bedding, towels, or other fabrics with someone who has scabies and don’t have sex or engage in close physical contact with anyone who has been infected.

Following these guidelines and treating everyone in your home at the same time should be enough to send that infestation packing.

What should I do if my child gets scabies?

If your child gets scabies then you shouldn’t struggle to find a treatment as long as they are over the age of 2 months.

If you think your child does have scabies, take them to the doctor right away so you can get them treated as soon as possible.

Children over the age of 2 can often be treated with permethrin, although you may need to treat their head and neck as well as the rest of their body.

Children aged 2 – 24 months can be treated with permethrin, but only if you’re given the go ahead from your doctor, if not then your doctor will recommend another suitable treatment for them.

Once you’ve used a scabies treatment, your child can usually go back to school after 24 hours, but make sure to speak to your doctor to make sure that this is the case with your child.

What if I get scabies during pregnancy?

If you’re pregnant and think you have scabies, then you should make sure to see your doctor right away.

It’s always best that you avoid using any unnecessary medications while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, but if you need to use a scabies remedy, your doctor will recommend one that’s suitable for you.

These remedies may include permethrin, or other anti-parasitic ingredients.

When should I see my doctor?

If you think you have scabies, you should see your doctor straight away.

They’ll be able to confirm whether or not you do have scabies and recommend a treatment that will help to clear your infection.

If you’ve gone through your treatment but are still feeling itchy four weeks later, you should make sure to make another appointment with your doctor so they can let you know what to do next.

Now we know all there is to know about that creepy, crawly scabies infection, and if you’re not feeling a little bit itchy after reading all that then you’re stronger than I am!

Remember, if you think you might have scabies, get to the doctor right away and make sure you get your treatment sorted. It’s better to be safe than sorry!


Laura Henderson - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 17 September 2021
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