How do I know if I have scabies?

Scabies is a common skin infestation caused by a human itch mite, Sarcoptes scabiei var. Hominis. You know if you have scabies mites if you experience extreme itching, rash, sores, and crusted skin.
Scabies is a common skin infestation caused by a human itch mite, Sarcoptes scabiei var. Hominis. You know if you have scabies mites if you experience extreme itching, rash, sores, and crusted skin.

Scabies is a common skin infestation caused by a human itch mite, Sarcoptes scabiei var. Hominis. 

It is an eight-legged bug so small that you can't see it crawling on your skin with a naked eye. When these mites burrow into your skin, it leads to extreme rash and itchiness. The condition is known as scabies

Scabies is highly contagious and needs immediate medical attention.

It's essential to identify scabies at early stages to stop their spread. The signs and symptoms of scabies usually take time to appear. 

People who have had scabies before show symptoms within one to four days. If you have never had scabies, your body may take two to six weeks to react to the mite.

Look for the following symptoms of scabies to know if you are affected by the condition:

  • Severe itchingScabies causes intense itching that keeps a person awake at night. This itch is the most common symptom of scabies. 
  • Rash. Scabies also causes rashes on different body parts, including the back, hands, palms, and soles. The rash consists of little bumps that look like tiny bites or pimples, often forming a line on the affected area. The scabies rash is more common in infants. Look for bumps on the soles of their feet. If the bumps are small and puss-filled, they are likely scabies rash. 
  • Sores. Continuous scratching of the rash can lead to sores. Sores can also appear due to an infection caused by scabies.
  • Crusted skin. Crusted scabies, also known as Norwegian scabies, is a condition in which the affected person develops a severe form of rashes. These rashes look like crusts on your skin, similar to eczema

In most cases, scabies causes constant scratching and itching. If you scratch a scabies rash continually, it may cause an infection. Continual scratching can also lead to sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by an infection in the blood.

How did I get scabies?

Scabies is a contagious condition, which can spread in multiple ways. Apart from having direct contact with the mite, you can also get scabies through:

  • Prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person with scabies
  • Sexual involvement with a person with scabies
  • Close contact with family members infected with scabies
  • Using contaminated clothes, towels, or bedding

Remember that a quick contact, like a hug or a handshake, won't spread the mites. The contact needs to be prolonged enough for the infection to be passed from one person to another.

Where does scabies usually start?

Scabies can start anywhere on the skin. The mites usually burrow into certain parts of the body, including:

  • Hands, mainly between the fingers and around the nails
  • Arms, in the elbows and wrists
  • Buttocks
  • Beltline
  • Penis 
  • Skin around the nipples
  • In the armpits
  • Around the waist
  • Knees
  • Skin covered by a bracelet, ring, or wristwatch
  • Skin above the neck

In children and infants, scabies mites usually affect:

  • Scalp
  • Palms 
  • Soles of feet

How to test yourself for scabies?

It's best to be diagnosed by a dermatologist. The doctor will examine your skin from head to toe to diagnose any underlying medical condition. They may also take small samples of your skin to confirm you have scabies. 

The doctor will examine skin samples on a glass slide under a microscope. Though scabies mites are too small to see with the naked eye, it's not difficult to spot the mites and their eggs under high magnification.

This procedure is painless.

What kills scabies mites?

When the dermatologist diagnoses scabies, they may prescribe creams and lotions to eliminate the infestation. Some commonly prescribed medications for scabies treatment include:

  • Permethrin cream. This topical medicine is the most effective killer of scabies mites and their eggs. Permethrin is also considered safe to use for adults, children two months and older, and even pregnant women.
  • Crotamiton (Eurax, Crotan). This medicine is available in two forms, cream or lotion. It works well on scabies mites, but its safety is not proven for children, pregnant women, or seniors. 
  • Ivermectin (Stromectol). This is an oral medication, helpful for people with crusted scabies and those who don't respond positively to the prescribed lotions and creams. But, Ivermectin isn't safe for pregnant women and children weighing less than 33 pounds (15 kilograms).

The doctor may recommend one or more medicines to kill the scabies mites and their eggs. They may ask you to apply the medicine to your entire body and leave it for at least eight to 10 hours. If new burrows or rash appear, you may need to re-apply the medicine.

If the itching doesn't stop after the treatment, the doctor may prescribe other medications, such as sulfur compounded in petrolatum.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/4/2022
References
SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology Association: "SCABIES: DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT," "SCABIES: OVERVIEW," "SCABIES: SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS"

Cedars Sinai: "Scabies."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Scabies Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)."

Mayo Clinic: "Scabies."