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Scabies - Summary

Scabies is a condition that results in a variety of symptoms as the result of an infestation by the scabies mite. Scabies frequently needs medical treatment to treat the condition. Push Health can connect people who need treatment with scabies medications with medical providers who can provide a scabies prescription when appropriate to do so.

What Is Scabies?

What is scabies and how do you get scabies? Scabies, sometimes known as the seven-year itch, is a skin infection caused by the scabies mite - Sarcoptes scabiei. A parasite, the scabies mite infects the body by burrowing into the skin where the scabies mite lives. After burrowing into the skin, pregnant scabies mites will lay their eggs. Scabies symptoms are the result of a delayed allergic reaction that occurs from the presence of mites in the skin from a scabies infection. In mild forms of scabies, less than 20 mites will cause an infection.

Where Does Scabies Come From?

Where does the scabies mite come from to cause an infection? Scabies is highly contagious, and scabies mite infestations occur when someone with a scabies infection transmits it to another person through skin-to-skin contact. Examples of ways in which a scabies mite infection can be transmitted include sexual contact and contact with infected individuals in prisons, day-care facilities and other facilities in which groups of people are in close contact to one another. Symptoms are not required for an infected person to transmit a scabies infection to another person.

Scabies Symptoms

Many people with a scabies mite infection have no symptoms at all. Scabies symptoms can take up to two months to develop after a scabies mite infestation occurs. When symptoms do occur, what does scabies look like? The most common symptoms that appear from a scabies infection are small, linear tracks from the burrows of the scabies mite. The scabies rash caused by the burrows are sometimes referred to as scabies bites because they appear to be small bug bites. These burrows are frequently seen in the web spaces of the fingers and toes, the palms and soles, and in other skin folds near the stomach and genitals. Scabies bites can take weeks to develop and weeks to go away after treatment. Severe itching, another common symptom of a scabies infection, is common with an increased occurrence at night.

A particularly bad infestation known as Norwegian scabies, or crusted scabies, tends to occur in people with compromised immune systems. Crusted scabies is characterized by a massive infestation with scabies mites, leading to a crusty appearance to the skin resulting from it being full of scabies mites. Highly contagious, crusted scabies tends to occur in people with HIV or cancer, people taking medications that suppress the immune system and the elderly.

How To Get Rid of Scabies

Scabies can be diagnosed through clinical history and physical exam or use of special diagnostic studies using a microscope. Once one has scabies, a natural question is how to treat scabies. Anything used to treat scabies needs to be a scabicide meaning that it destroys both scabies mite eggs and the mites themselves. Many people look for scabies treatment over the counter (OTC) because it would be a more convenient way to get treated. While some sources might recommend various home remedies for scabies, no OTC scabies treatments have been approved for scabies treatment. Instead, scabies rashes and infections require prescription scabies medication for treatment and several lifestyle interventions to ensure that the scabies mite infection does not recur immediately.

Scabies Medications

Mild cases of scabies can often be treated with scabies cream medications. On the other hand, more complex cases of scabies such as crusted scabies typically require both topical and oral scabies medications for treatment. Medications used in scabies treatment are determined by the prescribing medical provider and include the following:

Other lifestyle modifications are also necessary to ensure that a scabies mite does not come back. These lifestyle changes include decontaminating towels, clothing and bedding using techniques such as washing in hot water and using a hot dryer in the period just before treatment. Close contacts should be treated at the same time as the person diagnosed with a scabies infection and additional treatment is sometimes required for persistent infections.

Scabies Treatment Online

Scabies treatment requires prescription medications to destroy both the scabies mites and their eggs. In the United States, one cannot just buy scabies medications online as the first step is a consultation with a medical provider to get a prescription. People who need a scabies treatment prescription can use Push Health to connect with a medical provider who can prescribe scabies creams and oral medications when appropriate to do so.

Additional Scabies Information

  • CDC - Scabies
  • Last updated January 17, 2023. Given the evolving nature of medicine and science, this information might not be accurate and should not be construed as medical advice or diagnosis / treatment recommendations. Please consult a licensed medical provider if you have additional questions. Please call 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency room if you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency.