What Do I Do If I Suspect I Have Scabies?

If you’re feeling itchy and noticing small, red bumps on your skin, you may be suspecting that you have scabies. Don’t worry, you’re not alone – scabies is a common skin condition that can affect anyone. The good news is that there are steps you can take to address it. From seeking medical advice to practicing good hygiene, this article will provide you with helpful information on what to do if you suspect you have scabies. So, sit back, relax, and let’s unravel the mystery of this pesky condition together.

Understanding Scabies

What is scabies?

Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. These microscopic mites burrow into the skin, laying eggs and causing intense itching and a rash. Scabies is highly contagious and can spread easily from person to person, especially in crowded environments or close contact situations.

How do people get scabies?

Scabies is primarily transmitted through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual. It can also be spread through sharing infested bedding, clothing, or towels. Scabies mites can survive for up to 48 to 72 hours away from the human host, increasing the risk of transmission through contaminated objects.

What are the symptoms of scabies?

The most common symptom of scabies is intense itching, which often worsens at night. The itching is usually accompanied by a rash, consisting of small red bumps or blisters, and tracks or burrows where the mites have burrowed into the skin. These symptoms typically occur on the hands, wrists, elbows, armpits, waist, and genital area. In severe cases or in individuals with a weakened immune system, scabies can lead to secondary infections.

How is scabies diagnosed?

If you suspect you have scabies, it is important to seek a diagnosis from a healthcare professional. They will often diagnose scabies based on the appearance of the rash and the characteristic burrows. In some cases, they may also perform a skin scraping or use a microscope to identify the mites or their eggs. It is crucial to receive a proper diagnosis to ensure appropriate treatment and to prevent the spread of scabies to others.

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Taking Immediate Action

Isolate yourself to prevent transmission

If you suspect you have scabies, it is crucial to isolate yourself from others to prevent further spread of the mites. Avoid close physical contact, especially with children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Consider staying home from work, school, or other public places until you have received proper treatment and are no longer contagious.

Avoid scratching the affected areas

Although the itching caused by scabies can be unbearable, it is important to resist the urge to scratch. Scratching can lead to skin damage, increase the risk of secondary infections, and contribute to the spread of scabies to other areas of the body. If the itching becomes unbearable, over-the-counter antihistamines or topical anti-itch creams may provide temporary relief.

Wash all bedding and clothing

To eliminate any scabies mites or eggs that may be present, it is essential to wash all bedding, clothing, and towels in hot water and dry them on high heat. This includes items that have been used in the past few days, as well as those in close contact with your skin. It is recommended to wash these items separately from other laundry to prevent contamination.

Inform close contacts about your suspicion of scabies

To prevent the further spread of scabies, it is important to inform close contacts, such as family members, roommates, or intimate partners, about your suspicion of scabies. They should be advised to watch for any symptoms and seek prompt medical attention if necessary. Additionally, they should follow appropriate preventive measures, such as washing their bedding and clothing, to minimize the risk of contracting scabies.

Consulting with a Healthcare Professional

Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider

Once you suspect you have scabies, it is crucial to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider as soon as possible. They will be able to confirm the diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment options. If you are unable to see a healthcare provider immediately, consider seeking care from an urgent care center or utilizing telemedicine services.

Prepare for the appointment

Before your appointment, it can be helpful to gather information about your symptoms, including when they started and any potential exposures to scabies. You may also want to make a list of any questions or concerns you have about the condition or its treatment. This will ensure that you make the most of your time with the healthcare provider and receive the necessary information to manage your scabies effectively.

Treatment Options

Topical medications

The most common treatment for scabies is the application of topical medications directly to the affected areas. These medications typically contain scabicide ingredients that kill the scabies mites and their eggs. The cream or lotion should be applied to the entire body, from the neck down, and left on for the recommended duration before washing off. It is crucial to follow the instructions provided by the healthcare provider and to reapply the medication if necessary.

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Oral medications

In more severe or widespread cases of scabies, oral medications may be prescribed. These medications, such as ivermectin, work by killing the scabies mites throughout the body. They may be recommended for individuals with compromised immune systems or those who have not responded to traditional topical treatments. It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and duration of treatment when taking oral medications.

Treatment for close contacts

Close contacts of individuals diagnosed with scabies, even if they are asymptomatic, may also need to undergo treatment. This helps prevent further transmission of scabies and reduces the risk of reinfection. Close contacts should follow the same treatment regimen as the diagnosed individual, even if they do not display any symptoms.

Home remedies

While there are numerous home remedies touted as effective treatments for scabies, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before attempting any of these methods. Some individuals may find temporary relief with home remedies such as tea tree oil, neem oil, or sulfur-based ointments, but these options may not fully eliminate the infestation. It is always best to combine home remedies with medically prescribed treatments to ensure effective eradication of scabies.

Prevention and Hygiene Measures

Maintain personal hygiene

Practicing good personal hygiene is crucial in preventing the spread of scabies. Regularly wash your hands with soap and water, especially after applying any medications or creams. Keep your nails trimmed short to prevent scratching and potential skin damage. Shower or bathe regularly to keep your skin clean and reduce the risk of secondary infections.

Don’t share personal items

Avoid sharing personal items such as clothing, towels, bedding, and personal care items to minimize the risk of scabies transmission. Scabies mites can survive for a short time on items that have come into contact with an infected person, increasing the likelihood of spreading the infestation. It is best to use separate towels and bedding, and ensure that all personal items are washed and thoroughly dried before reuse.

Keep living spaces clean and well-ventilated

To minimize the risk of scabies infestation or reinfection, it is important to keep living spaces clean and well-ventilated. Vacuum carpets, rugs, and upholstery regularly to remove any mites or eggs that may have fallen off the body. Avoid overcrowding and ensure adequate air circulation to reduce the risk of mites surviving in the environment.

Regularly wash bedding and clothing

Washing bedding and clothing regularly in hot water and drying on high heat is crucial in preventing the spread of scabies. Pay close attention to any items that have come into contact with the affected areas and ensure they are washed separately from other laundry. Additionally, consider ironing or storing items that cannot be washed in a sealed plastic bag for a week to kill any remaining mites.

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Managing the Emotional Impact

Seek emotional support

Dealing with scabies can be emotionally challenging. It is important to seek emotional support from friends, family, or support groups who can provide understanding and empathy. Sharing your experience and emotions can help alleviate feelings of stress, frustration, or isolation that may arise during the treatment process.

Educate yourself about scabies

Knowledge is power when it comes to managing scabies. Educate yourself about the condition, its causes, and treatment options. Understanding the lifecycle of scabies mites and how they are transmitted can help you make informed decisions about preventive measures and treatment. Healthcare professionals and reputable online sources can provide accurate and reliable information about scabies.

Follow the recommended treatment plan

To effectively manage scabies, it is crucial to follow the recommended treatment plan provided by your healthcare professional. Be diligent in applying prescribed medications, adhering to dosing schedules, and completing the full course of treatment, even if symptoms improve before completion. This will help ensure the eradication of scabies and reduce the risk of reinfection.

Complications and When to Seek Further Help

Potential complications of scabies

While scabies itself is not typically dangerous, complications may arise if the condition is left untreated or if secondary infections occur. Scratching the affected areas can lead to skin damage, which may provide an entry point for bacteria, leading to infections like impetigo or cellulitis. If you experience worsening symptoms, persistent itching, increased pain, or signs of infection, seek immediate medical attention.

Signs that you may need further medical assistance

If you have followed the recommended treatment plan but your symptoms persist or worsen, it is important to seek further medical assistance. This may indicate that the initial treatment was not effective, or there may be another underlying condition causing similar symptoms. A healthcare professional can reassess your situation and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options.

Addressing FAQs

Can scabies go away on its own?

Scabies infestations will not resolve without proper treatment. While symptoms may temporarily improve, the mites and eggs will persist, leading to ongoing infestation. It is important to seek medical treatment to fully eradicate the scabies mites and prevent further spread.

Can I get scabies from my pets?

Scabies mites are species-specific, meaning that human scabies mites do not infest animals and vice versa. Humans can only contract scabies from other humans, not from pets or other animals.

Can I go to work or school if I have scabies?

It is advisable to stay home from work or school until you have received proper treatment and are no longer contagious. Scabies is highly contagious and can easily spread in crowded environments. By staying home, you not only reduce the risk of transmission but also allow yourself time to heal and prevent discomfort for others.

Can scabies be prevented with vaccines?

Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent scabies. The most effective preventative measures include practicing good personal hygiene, avoiding close contact with infected individuals, and maintaining a clean living environment.


Suspecting you have scabies can be distressing, but taking immediate action and seeking appropriate medical care is essential for effective treatment and prevention of further spread. By understanding scabies, following treatment protocols, practicing good hygiene, and seeking emotional support, you can effectively manage and overcome this condition. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. With the right approach, scabies can be successfully treated, resulting in relief from symptoms and a return to optimal health.