What is Scabies?

Scabies is a skin disease that causes a red, itchy rash and the itch is most intense at night. Highly contagious, scabies often spread rapidly by direct contact with another infested person. Because scabies are 1/60 of an inch or smaller, they are difficult to see.


  • Scabies mites mate on the skin’s surface, then the female burrows into the skin to lay her eggs, causing the skin to itch.
  • The temptation is to scratch, but this can invite greater infection.
  • A grayish-white thread on the skin may mark a female’s burrow.
  • A clinician will look for this symptom between fingers, on the backs of hands, elbows, armpits, breasts, groin, penis, along the belt line, on the back, or buttocks.
  • Symptoms may take 4-6 weeks to emerge after contact with scabies.
  • If you have a rash, don’t assume it is scabies. Come to the University Health Center for proper diagnosis and treatment.


  • Anyone can get scabies if they come into contact with an infested person.
  • If a person is reinfested, symptoms may appear more rapidly than before.


  • Your clinician will want to confirm your diagnosis by scraping the skin and examining the scraping under a microscope.
  • This examination is usually quick and painless.
  • Your clinician can prescribe a number of medicines which are effective against scabies.
  • A cream or ointment may kill the mites within 12 hours, but the itching may continue 2-3 weeks.
  • Ointments can be purchased that will soothe the itching.


  • Wash your hands often and your hair frequently.
  • Wear clean clothes every day and don’t exchange clothes with others.
  • If anyone in your family is infested, make sure everyone in the family is checked immediately.
  • Don’t use the same bedding as an infected person. Someone being treated for scabies should wear clean clothes and use clean bedding.

Adapted from:

Sexual Health Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Contraception