What Is Scabies and Who Gets It?
Scabies is caused by eight-legged bugs called mites, which are so small, they can’t be seen on your skin. These mites burrow into the skin and cause an itchy rash. Scabies is contagious and can be passed or received through skin-to-skin contact with others. The longer the contact, the better chance there is of spreading the mites. A quick handshake or hug is usually not long enough to spread mites. It’s typically spread through sexual or prolonged physical contact. Sharing towels, bedding or clothing can also spread the condition, but this is less common.
Symptoms may not show up for two to six weeks for those who’ve never had the condition. Those who’ve had scabies my start itching within a few days. Symptoms include severe itching, rash and sores caused by scratching (which can become infected). Scabies usually appears on the hands, wrists, arms, skin covered by jewelry and skin covered by clothing (like the buttocks, belt line and genitals).
Anyone can get scabies, no matter their age or race. Having frequent skin-to-skin contact with others or a weakened immune system can increase your risk. Also, children, mothers of young children, nursing home residents and aides, and sexually-active adults have a higher risk of getting scabies.
In adults, mites rarely burrow into the skin above the neck. But in children, the entire body can be affected. Infants and children with scabies may be tired and irritable from lack of sleep, and they may develop blisters from scabies infection.