If you’re wondering if that itchy rash caused by scabies is contagious, you’re in good company. Every day, hundreds of millions of people around the globe experience this common skin condition caused by tiny parasitic skin mites.
At HK Dermatology in San Juan Capistrano, California, Jeffrey Klein, MD, and our experienced providers offer personalized scabies diagnosis and treatment. We’re also here to answer any questions about this skin condition, including whether it’s contagious. Here’s what you need to know.
What is scabies and is it contagious?
Scabies is a skin infestation of microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites live on the surface of your skin, but when the females are ready to lay their eggs, they burrow beneath.
The rash, bumps, and blisters you see are triggered by these tunnels and your skin’s reaction to the presence of the eggs, mites, and feces. While they can live almost anywhere on your body, some areas attract scabies mites more than others, including:
- Your hands and feet
- In skin folds under your arms and thighs
- Around your waist
- In the buttocks and groin
- Around your navel
- Around your nipples
- The underside of your wrists
- Scalp and head (on infants)
Scabies is highly contagious, so if you or someone close to you has the condition, it’s essential to take steps right away. The condition spreads via skin-to-skin contact or by touching the clothes, bedding, or towels of an infected person.
Unfortunately, most people have the mites for some time before having noticeable symptoms — on average, 4-6 weeks. That gives the mites more time to spread between people. The first noticeable symptom is generally intense itching that worsens at night.
The itching is followed by the development of a rash, which may look like small bumps, blisters, pimples, or scales. You might also notice lines on your skin, which are the burrowing tracks made by the mites.
Since the itching is so intense, it’s difficult to avoid scratching the rash, which often causes infection. The symptoms may come and go. However, an absence of a rash doesn’t mean the mites are gone or that you’re not contagious. That’s why people frequently get stuck in a cycle of scabies.
What should I do if I suspect scabies?
Medical treatment is the only way to eliminate the mites that cause scabies. Because scabies is so contagious, if one person close to you gets it, everyone in your household should be evaluated and treated for the condition.
When untreated, scabies can lead to significant complications because of the high risk of infection. However, at HK Dermatology, we have safe and effective therapies to help you say goodbye to scabies.
Once your condition is diagnosed, our team prescribes a cream containing an insecticide called permethrin. The treatment should be applied at night because it needs to stay on your skin for 8-14 hours.
While the cream is effective, you might still have itching for 2-3 weeks after your treatment ends. It typically takes about four weeks for your skin to heal.
Learn more about scabies or get treatment now by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at HK Dermatology in San Juan Capistrano, California.