Scabies

Scabies is a skin infection that is caused by tiny insects (mites) which burrow under your skin, causing a very itchy rash.

Summary

The scabies rash looks like small blisters surrounded by red patches.

Scabies mites are very tiny – the size of a pinhead – so they can be very hard to see.

Anyone can get scabies – even the cleanest people.

Scabies spreads easily between family members and friends.

It is spread by skin contact, and by sharing clothing and bedding. For this reason, it's more common when you have lots of people living together in close contact.


Related websites

DermNet NZ
DermNet New Zealand Trust.

Women and Children's Health Network - Child and Youth Health
This website, by the South Australian government agency, has a kids’ health section with useful information on scabies.

Symptoms

If you have scabies, you'll have a very itchy rash that is worse at bedtime or when you're warm.

  • The rash can develop on any parts of your body: between your fingers and toes, on your wrist, inside your elbows, around your waist, and on your bottom.
  • Children often get a rash all over their body.
  • Adults generally don't get a rash on their head or neck.

If you think that you or a family member has scabies, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Treatment

It’s important to treat scabies, as it won't go away otherwise.

Scratching a lot can lead to serious skin infections. People who have scabies for a long time can get permanent scarring of their skin.
  • Your pharmacist can give you a cream or lotion to treat the scabies.
  • Everyone living in the same house should be treated at the same time – even if they're not itchy.
  • It can take up to 4 weeks for the itching to go away.
  • If you still have the rash, you'll need to see your doctor.

Prevention

To stop scabies spreading:

  • Everyone's clothes should be washed in hot water and dried – then put in a sealed plastic bag for 4 days. (Dry cleaning also works.)
  • Everyone's bedding and linen – sheets, pillowcases, towels and facecloths – should be washed in hot water.
  • It may be necessary to repeat the scabies treatment – talk to your pharmacist or doctor for advice.
  • Exclude from school, childcare or work until the day after appropriate treatment.
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