Scabies is a skin infection that is caused by tiny insects (mites) that burrow under your skin, causing a very itchy rash.
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.
Scabies 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.
Time off from kura or school
Stay away from kura or school for at least one day after treatment with the cream.
The Kidshealth website has information on scabies and what to do if your child has it.
DermNet New Zealand Trust has information and photos of scabies (so you know what to look for)
The Health Navigator NZ website has information on scabies.
If you have scabies, you'll have a very itchy rash that is worse at bedtime or when you're warm.
- The scabies rash looks like small blisters surrounded by red patches.
- 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.
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.
Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.
To stop scabies spreading:
- Try not to scratch the skin as this can cause the mites to spread to other parts of the body and may also cause scarring.
- 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.