Scabies (Itch Mite) are Parasitic

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Scabies on the hand

Known as the “itch” from Greek and Roman times through the Middle Ages and probably around before that.

Scabies also called Itch Mites are a common parasitic mite found on humans. The mite can infest anyone at any age. It affects all cultures worldwide. A scabies infestation is very contagious. And can spread quickly through a household. Getting rid of the infestation is time consuming and intense. It involves more than a cream and pill.

How the Scabies Mite Travels

The mite travels by crawling very slowly. It needs time to get from person to person through prolonged contact.

Transmission may rarely occur through infected clothing, bedding and towels. Scabies can also hide under watch bands, bracelets or rings.

Similar with the case of lice, children can transmit scabies through their play. It may be discovered by the school.

Outbreaks may occur in highly populated areas and facilities such as day care and nursing homes. The staff needs to be notified as well as classmates and caregivers, anyone who has had direct contact. All these individuals will need to be treated.

A different type of mite can infest cats and dogs. This is called mange. This type of mite will die off on human skin and not affect it at all.


The Scabies Life Cycle

The mites feed with their mouths and front legs burrowing into the epidermis layer.

The adult female mite will tunnel just under the skin, the tunnel can be seen. The track lines are usually grayish-white or flesh tone. She will lay 10-25 eggs during the next couple days. This causes the itching and angry rash due to our immune system reacting to the invasion.

The baby larvae hatch about 3-4 days later and move to the skin’s surface to mature. The mite becomes an adult after 10-15 days on the skin.

The male mite never leaves the surface while the female burrows back into the skin to lay her eggs. The male travels between burrows searching for a mate and dies after mating. 

The mite can live about 2-3 days on clothes, bedding or towels. They need a human host to feed and reproduce.



scratching woman
woman scratching arm Antonio Guillem curtesy Shutterstock

Scabies Symptoms

The most common symptom, the one remembered, is a rash with intense itching. It becomes worse at night interfering with ones sleep. Also present is the sensation of something crawling on the skin.

Scabies is similar to other rashes and these should be ruled out. However, several family members having a similar rash at the same time should suggest scabies.

When infested the first time, it could take four to six weeks before symptoms show. This is important to remember when considering the treatment span. This includes the intense itching occurring at night.

The mite likes areas such as creases that are warm:

  • Folds of armpits, elbows and knees
  • By the waistline and navel
  • Breast or genital areas
  • Between fingers and on hands

With young children the head, neck, face, palms and soles are usually affected.


Crusted Scabies (AKA Norwegian Scabies)

Is an infestation of thousands of mites affecting one person which is very traumatic. A thick crust is caused because the skin is full of mites and their eggs.

It is more common among people with weakened immune systems, the elderly and those with disabilities. This type is very contagious and requires quick treatment in preventing an outbreak.

Frequent scratching can lead to a bacterial infection known as Impetigo. This is the most common complication of scabies and can be treated with antibiotics.



A microscope is needed to see the actual mite, its eggs or fecal matter. This is done by your Dermatologist from a skin scrape. The burrows on the skin may be viewed, if intense scratching has not occurred. Scratching may present a problem in making a diagnosis.


Treatment for Scabies

Scabies will not just go away by itself.  It is important to treat the itching in order to prevent an infection along with the rash. The environment must be treated to remove the mites and avoid a re-infestation. A produce is needed to kill the mites.

The family members and those who had close contact should be made aware. They will also need to seek treatment.

The clothing and bedding of the infected must be washed in hot water and placed in the dryer. There may be a need to repeat this until all the mites are removed. Other items that can’t be washed (stuffed toys) can be placed in a plastic bag and sealed for several days.


Any furniture used needs to be cleaned as well. The home or living area will need to be vacuumed. The vacuum bag (sealed) removed outside to garbage right away.

A prescription cream or lotion may be given. This is applied to the body, most often, from the neck down. After leaving this on for 8 to 14 hours it is washed off.

Depending on the prescription, treatment may take up to 3 days. An antihistamine may also be prescribed to relieve the itching, especially during the night when it is most bothersome.

A product called Scabiesin a Body Wash and Body Mask can be purchased. Dr. Berry’s is good for eczema and psoriasis also. Along with Calamine lotion that helps relieve itching.


Other prescriptions:

  • Permethrin (Elimite) a topical cream
  • Lindane a lotion
  • Crotamiton (Eurax) in cream or lotion form
  • Ivermectin (Stromectol) oral medication


Home Remedies

These can help with the discomfort. But more studies are needed to verify how well they work to treat and kill scabies.

  • Oatmeal baths have been used for centuries to relieve itchy, dry skin. Great treatment for eczema as well.
  • Tea Tree Oil an essential oil known for its antiseptic qualities. There is the possibility of being allergic.
  • Aloe Vera  known for soothing inflammation on skin. Will help with the itching.
  • Neem some studies have shown this oil helps kill the mites as well as treat.

Warning: there is always the chance of having allergies to natural remedies. If the condition becomes worse or other symptoms develop, please consult your doctor.

Header Photo male hand with scabies by Zay Nyi Nyi curtesy of Shutterstock


This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis.

If you have a health condition or concern, please consult your doctor.

Researching content:      accessed 07/11/2020 (scabies facts)   accessed 07/11/2020  (history)        accessed 07/11/2020    (home remedies) accessed 07/12/2020           accessed 07/12/2020

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