Scabies is a skin condition caused by a tiny mite that gets under the skin and lays eggs.
- very common - anyone can get it
- passed by skin-to-skin or sexual contact with a person who has scabies
- easily spread - so it should be treated quickly
- not usually a serious condition
Check if you have scabies
The symptoms of scabies are:
- intense itching, especially at night
- a raised rash or spots
The rash or spots may look red. They are more difficult to see on brown or black skin, but you should be able to feel them.
The rash can appear anywhere, but it often starts between the fingers.
It can take up to 8 weeks after the mites get under your skin for the scabies rash to appear.
It usually spreads across the whole body, but not the head.
You may develop a rash on your head and neck if you:
- are an older person
- are a very young child
- have a weakened immune system
Treatment for scabies
Your pharmacist can help with scabies.
They will recommend a cream or lotion that you apply over your whole body. You can buy this without a prescription. It's important you read the instructions carefully. You'll need to repeat the treatment 1 week later.
Everyone in your household needs to be treated at the same time - even if they do not have symptoms.
If you have had sexual contact with anyone in the past 8 weeks, they should also be treated.
Help with itchiness
Calamine lotion may help to relieve itchy skin. It is available without a prescription.
If you are very itchy, your GP can prescribe creams that help with itchiness.
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 mites quickly, the itching can carry on for a few weeks.
Non-urgent advice: Talk to your GP if:
- your skin is still itching 4 weeks after treatment has finished
How to stop scabies spreading
Anyone can get scabies. It has nothing to do with poor hygiene. You cannot get scabies from pets.
People who live or work closely together in nurseries or nursing homes are more at risk.
wash all bedding and clothing on the first day of treatment - 50 degrees Celsius will kill the mites
put clothing that cannot 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
do not have sex or close physical contact with anyone until you have finished the full course of treatment
do not share bedding, clothing or towels with someone who has scabies
Complications of scabies
Scratching the rash can cause skin infections such as impetigo.
If there are a lot of mites under the skin, crusted scabies can form. This is serious, but not common. It can affect older people and those with a lowered immune system.