A graphic of two people that says "scabies bumps are often found between the fingers and on the wrists."

Human scabies is caused by an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite. Adult female itch mites burrow into the upper layer of the skin where they live and deposit their eggs.

The mites are almost always transmitted by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact. An infested person can spread scabies even if they have no symptoms. Animals do not spread scabies to humans.


Symptoms include, pimple-like irritations, burrows or rashes, on a person’s skin, webbing between fingers, skin folds on wrists, elbows, knees, breasts, shoulder blades, or penis. Intense itching at night is one of the earliest symptoms.

It is important to remember that the first time someone gets infested they usually have no symptoms for the first two to six weeks. However they can still spread the infestation during that time period.

Close up view of red scabies bumps on skin


Products used to treat scabies are called scabicides because they kill scabies mites; some also kill mite eggs. Scabicides used to treat human scabies are available only with a doctor’s prescription.

Bedding, clothing, and towels used by infested persons or their household, sexual and close contacts anytime during the three days before treatment should be decontaminated by washing in hot water and drying in a hot dryer, by dry-cleaning, or by sealing in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours. Scabies mites generally do not survive more than 2 to 3 days away from human skin.

Treatment should be given to both the infested person and to household members and sexual contacts, particularly those who have had prolonged direct skin-to-skin contact with the infested person. Everyone should be treated at the same time to prevent re-infestation.


Scabies is prevented by avoiding direct skin-to-skin contact with an infested person or with items such as clothing or bedding used by an infested person.