What Is The Most Common Way To Get Scabies?

Imagine this scenario: you suddenly notice a persistent itch on your skin that just won’t go away. As you search for answers, you stumble upon the term “scabies.” A question forms in your mind: what is the most common way to get scabies? In this article, we will explore the answer to this question and shed light on the underlying causes of this uncomfortable condition. So, sit back, relax, and let’s delve into the world of scabies.

Overview of Scabies

Scabies is a highly contagious skin infestation caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. This parasitic mite burrows into the upper layer of the skin, where it lays eggs and causes intense itching and a red, bumpy rash. Scabies is easily spread from person to person through various means of contact, and it is important to understand the causes, symptoms, and transmission of scabies in order to prevent its spread.

Definition of Scabies

Scabies is a skin condition caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. These microscopic mites burrow into the skin and cause an allergic reaction, resulting in a rash and intense itching. Scabies can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, and it is most commonly found in areas with crowded living conditions or poor sanitation.

Causes of Scabies

The primary cause of scabies is the infestation of the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. These mites are transmitted from person to person and can survive for up to 72 hours away from the human body. The mites can be easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, as well as through indirect contact with infested objects such as bedding, clothing, or furniture. Sexual transmission is also possible, as scabies can be contracted through intimate contact with an infested individual.

Symptoms of Scabies

The main symptom of scabies is itchiness, which can be severe and often worsens at night. Other common symptoms include a red, bumpy rash, small blisters or pustules, and the presence of burrows or tracks on the skin where the mites have tunneled. The rash and itching are most commonly found in areas where the mites are most active, such as between the fingers, wrists, elbows, armpits, genitals, and buttocks. It is important to note that symptoms may take several weeks to appear after the initial infestation.

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Transmission of Scabies

Direct skin-to-skin contact

One of the most common ways scabies is transmitted is through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infested person. This can occur during activities such as hugging, holding hands, or sexual contact. The mites can easily transfer from one person to another, especially in situations where there is prolonged and close physical contact.

Indirect contact with infested objects

Scabies can also be transmitted through indirect contact with infested objects. The mites can survive for a short period of time away from the human body, especially in warm and humid environments. Infested objects such as bedding, clothing, towels, or furniture can harbor the mites and spread the infestation to others who come into contact with them.

Sexual transmission

Scabies can be sexually transmitted through intimate contact with an infested individual. The mites can easily spread to the genital area, leading to scabies in this region. It is important for sexually active individuals to be aware of the risk of scabies and to practice safe sex to prevent transmission.

Transmission within households and institutions

Scabies can be easily transmitted within households or institutions such as nursing homes, schools, or prisons. Close and prolonged contact with infested individuals in these settings can facilitate the spread of scabies. Poor hygiene or sanitation practices can also increase the risk of transmission in these environments.

Risk Factors for Scabies

Close and prolonged contact

Close and prolonged contact with an infested individual is the primary risk factor for contracting scabies. This can occur in various settings such as households, institutions, or intimate relationships. Engaging in activities that involve prolonged physical contact with infested individuals increases the risk of transmission.

Living in crowded or close quarters

Living in crowded or close quarters with others increases the risk of scabies transmission. This is often seen in settings such as dormitories, military barracks, homeless shelters, or overcrowded homes. The close proximity of individuals in these environments makes it easier for the mites to spread from person to person.

Compromised immune system

Individuals with a compromised immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, are at an increased risk of developing scabies. A weakened immune system may not be able to effectively fight off the mites, leading to a more severe and persistent infestation.

Poor hygiene or sanitation

Poor hygiene or sanitation practices can contribute to the spread of scabies. Lack of access to clean water, proper bathing facilities, or clean clothing can make it difficult to maintain personal hygiene and prevent the transmission of scabies. Additionally, shared personal items or infrequently washed bedding can harbor the mites and increase the risk of infestation.

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Common Environments for Scabies Transmission

Schools and daycares

Schools and daycares are common environments for scabies transmission due to the close contact between students and teachers. Young children may be more susceptible to scabies due to their close interaction and potential lack of personal hygiene practices. It is important for schools and daycares to implement prevention and control measures to minimize the spread of scabies.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to scabies outbreaks due to the close living quarters and compromised immune systems of residents. It is crucial for these facilities to implement strict infection control measures, including regular screening and treatment of residents, as well as proper hygiene and sanitation practices.

Homeless shelters and prisons

Homeless shelters and prisons also pose a higher risk for scabies transmission due to the crowded and often unsanitary conditions. Individuals in these settings may have limited access to personal hygiene facilities, making it more challenging to prevent or control scabies outbreaks. Regular screening, treatment, and improved sanitation practices are essential in these environments.

Military barracks and college dormitories

Military barracks and college dormitories, where individuals live in close quarters, are susceptible to scabies outbreaks. The nature of communal living in these settings increases the risk of scabies transmission, especially if proper hygiene practices are not followed. Regular education, screening, and treatment programs can help prevent the spread of scabies in these environments.

Preventing Scabies Transmission

Maintaining good personal hygiene

Maintaining good personal hygiene is crucial in preventing scabies transmission. Regularly bathing with soap and warm water can help remove any mites on the skin. It is important to pay attention to areas between the fingers, wrists, and other folds of the skin. Keeping the nails short and clean can also help prevent the mites from burrowing under the skin.

Avoiding close contact or sharing personal items

Avoiding close contact with infested individuals and refraining from sharing personal items is important in preventing scabies transmission. Activities such as hugging, holding hands, or sexual contact can facilitate the transfer of mites. Sharing items such as clothing, towels, or bedding can also spread the infestation. It is recommended to have separate personal items and to avoid borrowing or lending them to others.

Regularly washing clothes and bedding

Regularly washing clothes and bedding in hot water and drying them on high heat can help kill any mites or eggs present. It is recommended to wash these items at least once a week if there is a suspicion of scabies infestation. Using hot water and high heat can effectively eliminate the mites and prevent their spread.

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Disinfecting infested objects and living spaces

Disinfecting infested objects and living spaces is important in preventing scabies transmission. Vacuuming furniture, mattresses, and carpets can help remove any mites or eggs present. Items that cannot be washed, such as stuffed animals or pillows, can be placed in a sealed plastic bag for at least 72 hours to kill the mites. It is also important to thoroughly clean and disinfect shared surfaces and objects regularly.

Diagnosing Scabies

Physical examination of the skin

A physical examination of the skin is typically the first step in diagnosing scabies. The healthcare provider will look for characteristic signs of scabies, such as the presence of a rash, burrows, or pustules. The provider may use a magnifying glass to better identify the mites or eggs.

Microscopic examination of skin scrapings

In some cases, the healthcare provider may perform a microscopic examination of skin scrapings to confirm the diagnosis of scabies. A small sample of the skin is scraped off and placed on a slide. The slide is then examined under a microscope to look for the presence of the Sarcoptes scabiei mites or their eggs.

Treating Scabies

Topical creams and lotions

The primary treatment for scabies is the application of topical creams or lotions that contain insecticides or scabicides. These medications are applied to the entire body from the neck down and left on for a prescribed period of time. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the healthcare provider and to thoroughly cover all affected areas. Repeat applications may be necessary to fully eliminate the mites.

Oral medications

In some cases, oral medications may be prescribed to treat scabies. These medications work from the inside out and can be particularly useful for individuals with severe or resistant infestations. It is important to take the medication as directed and to follow up with the healthcare provider to ensure the infestation has been successfully eradicated.

Treating close contacts

Treating close contacts is essential in preventing the spread of scabies. Even if individuals do not show symptoms, they may still be carrying the mites and can pass them on to others. It is important for all close contacts, such as family members, sexual partners, or roommates, to be treated simultaneously to prevent reinfection.

Cleaning and disinfecting the environment

Cleaning and disinfecting the environment is an important step in scabies treatment and prevention. Vacuuming furniture, mattresses, and carpets can help remove any mites or eggs. Infested clothing, bedding, or towels should be washed in hot water and dried on high heat. Shared surfaces and objects should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to minimize the risk of reinfection.

Complications of Scabies


Superinfection is a potential complication of scabies. Scratching the itchy rash can break the skin and create open sores, making it susceptible to bacterial infections. It is important to avoid scratching the rash and to seek medical attention if signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or pus, are present.

Post-scabies syndrome

Post-scabies syndrome is a rare complication that can occur after the successful treatment of scabies. It is characterized by persistent itching and skin inflammation that can last for weeks or months after the mites have been eliminated. It is not fully understood why some individuals develop post-scabies syndrome, but it is believed to be an ongoing immune response to the mites or their eggs.