Overview of Scabies

Scabies is a contagious skin infection that is caused by Sarcoptes scabiei, a microscopic mite. Infestation is common, found worldwide, and affects people of all races and social classes. Scabies spreads by direct, prolonged, skin to skin contact with a person already infested with scabies. Infestation may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, and bedding. Mites burrow under the outer layer of skin. They lay their eggs under the skin and feed on blood. The burrows sometimes appear as short, wavy, reddish, or darkened lines on the skin surface. For a person who has never been infested with scabies, it may take 4 to 6 weeks to begin symptoms. For a person who has had scabies, symptoms appear within several days. When living on a person, an adult female mite can live up to a month. Diagnosis is made by a skin scraping to look for mites, eggs, or mite fecal matter. 

Signs & Symptoms

The infection begins as small, itchy bumps, blisters, or pus-filled bumps that break when you scratch them. A common symptom is severe itching, which may be worse at night or after a hot bath or shower. The common areas that are affected are the hands and feet (especially the webs of skin between the fingers and toes), inner part of the wrists, and the folds under the arms, elbows and the areas around the breast, genitals, navel, and buttocks. Sores on the body caused by scratching can sometimes become infected with bacteria such as staph or strep. 


  • Quick identification and treatment is very important to control further spread of scabies.
  • Infected persons should be excluded from school or work until the day after treatment. 


Several prescription lotions/cremes are available to treat scabies. Itching may continue for 2 to 3 weeks after treatment. This does not mean that scabies is still present. A health care provider may prescribe additional medication to relieve itching. No new burrows or rashes should appear 24 to 48 hours after effective treatment. Anyone who is diagnosed with scabies, as well as his or her sexual partner and persons who have close, prolonged contact to the infested person should also be treated. Everyone should receive treatment at the same time to prevent reinfestation. In addition to applying insecticidal lotion/creme one should wash and dry all bedding, clothing, and towels used by the infected person prior to treatment with hot water and the high heat setting on the dryer. 

How We Can Help

  • If you would like to be seen by our medical staff, please contact our Appointment Desk to schedule an appointment.
  • Also, our Advice Nurse service is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss health concerns and the need for medical care.



  • Scabies (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Scabies (King County)