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A to Z: Scabies

May also be called: Crusted Scabies; Norwegian Scabies; Nodular Scabies

Scabies (SKAY-beez) is a common, itchy skin disorder caused by tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. The female mites burrow into the top layer of human skin to lay their eggs, causing small, itchy bumps and blisters.

More to Know

Scabies is contagious and is usually transmitted by prolonged skin-to-skin contact or through sexual contact with someone who's infected.

A scabies infection begins as small, itchy bumps, blisters, or pus-filled bumps that break when scratched. Occasionally, raised wavy lines may appear where the mites have burrowed. The most common symptom of scabies is severe itching due to a hypersensitivity reaction to the mite and/or its feces and eggs. The itching may be worse at night or after a hot bath.

Scabies can spread easily in crowded conditions and in situations with a lot of close contact — as in households, childcare centers, college dorms, or nursing homes. Scabies infections need to be treated by a doctor. Although the infection isn't dangerous, scratching the itchy areas can injure the skin and increase the risk of bacterial infection.

Keep in Mind

A scabies infection won't go away on its own, but it is easily treated. Usually, this involves using medicated creams or lotions to kill the mites. To prevent scabies from spreading, all family members should be treated and any shared towels or bed linens should be washed thoroughly.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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