Scabies is a parasitic skin infection caused by mites, specifically Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis. The mites burrow beneath the skin, triggering intense, unyielding itching and sometimes a rash. Worldwide, 200 million people are estimated to be experiencing scabies at any given moment.
When it comes to scabies, early identification and treatment are imperative to help resolve and prevent the condition from spreading to others.
Learn more about scabies bites, how to confirm infection, treatment, and when to see your healthcare provider.
What Do Scabies Bites Look Like?
Scabies bites (burrows) are often undetectable because of scratching, crusting, or a secondary infection. However, there are still several signs that a rash or itching results from scabies. Scabies bites may appear as bumpy skin or small pimples, which can be red or purple. Sometimes pus may be present.
How to Identify Scabies Bites
Because scabies bites can often not be seen, there are still several ways to identify them. This includes assessing the pattern, location, and timing of symptoms.
If bites (burrows) are possible to see, they will appear as gray or white-colored lines on the skin's surface.
Scabies can cause severe itching through the entire body, but common sites include:
- In between fingers
- Shoulder blades
Itching due to scabies is usually most bothersome at nighttime, one of the most common and early signs of infestation.
Other Symptoms of Scabies
Additional symptoms of scabies include:
- "Scabies rash" (a pimple-like and itchy rash)
- Burrows (grayish-white or skin-colored lines on the skin's surface)
Scabies requires proper treatment to eradicate the mites. Extra hygiene will not work because the mites live deep within the skin layers, which cannot be washed off.
Scabies is treated through prescription medications such as:
- Stromectol (ivermectin)
- Nix, Elimite (permethrin)
- Eurax (crotamiton)
- Sulfur ointment
Your healthcare provider may also recommend anti-itch cream or pain medication to help alleviate discomfort from symptoms.
Scabies is a parasite infestation primarily spread through skin-to-skin contact or exposure to contaminated items such as clothing or bedding. It requires quick diagnosis and treatment to prevent spreading it to others. Bites are often undetectable, but scabies will usually be suspected if there is intense itching that worsens at night, along with a rash.
A Word From Verywell
If you are experiencing symptoms of scabies, contact your healthcare provider right away for proper diagnosis and treatment. There's nothing to be ashamed about in contracting the parasitic infection. However, swift diagnosis and treatment is important to resolving the infestation on an individual level and preventing the spread of mites to others.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can be mistaken for scabies?
Several skin conditions can be mistaken for scabies, like dermatitis, psoriasis, hot tub folliculitis, and pityriasis rosea. What helps differentiate a scabies infestation from other skin conditions are lines (burrows from the mites) that sometimes accompany a scabies rash.
What kills scabies instantly?
Nothing kills scabies instantly. A course of treatment (medication) must be completed before a mite is considered deceased.
How is scabies spread?
Scabies is most often spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually sexually. Scabies can also be spread through clothing or bedding, though the parasite can only live independent of a human host for a few days.