Scabies: Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Options

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Scabies: Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Options

In this article, let’s learn from a renowned Delhi-based dermatologist, Dr Nivedita Dadu about scabies, its signs and symptoms, its variants and some of its treatment options.

Scabies: Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Options 

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Do you have an itchy red rash all over the body that worsens during the night? This could be scabies, a contagious skin condition that may easily spread from one person to another through direct contact with an infected person. Although it can be bothersome, proper and prompt treatment can usually eliminate it.

What is ‘scabies’?

Scabies is a contagious infection caused by a mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei. It leads to the formation of an itchy, red rash on the skin. The most common way one could catch scabies is through physical contact with an infected person.

Who can get infected with scabies?

According to Dr Dadu, people who are more likely to get infected from scabies include:

1. People who live in close proximity like school children, prisoners, or family members. If one person gets infected, others may also catch the infection.

2. People who are not very hygiene conscious.

3. Healthcare workers who may unknowingly be taking care of people who have scabies.

As scabies can spread through infected linens, towels and bedsheets, it is common at places like hotels and hospitals that do not use disposable sheets or towels.

What are the signs and symptoms of Scabies?

Even after getting infected with scabies, it can take 2 to 5 weeks for symptoms to appear, which include:

1. Intense itchy rash all over the body especially in areas like between the fingers and toes, below the waist, private parts, buttocks and lower abdomen. The itching is often severe and gets worse at night.

2. In children, scabies rash can also appear on the face, palms, and soles.

What are the different variants of scabies?

1. Typical scabies: This is the most common variant. In this, the patient has an itchy rash all over the body except the scalp and face.

2. Nodular scabies: In this type of scabies, nodules and lumps develop around the genitals of the infected person.

3. Norwegian or crusted scabies: This type is very uncommon, and it mostly occurs among those who are immunocompromised. This includes people who are either on chemotherapy, HIV positive or on steroid medication.

How to treat scabies?

There are a lot of creams, gels, ointments, and lotions available in the market to treat scabies, but they must be taken only after consulting a dermatologist.

Dr Dadu says if your doctor prescribes you a lotion it should be all over the body at night. You should leave the lotion on overnight and then take a bath the next morning. The lotion must also be applied to those areas that do not have an itchy rash.

Dr Dadu further suggests repeating the same process after a week since scabies mites lay eggs that typically hatch within a week and mature into new mites. It's crucial to treat the mites again using the same lotion to prevent re-infestation..

The above treatment is suitable for those who have mild infections. However, those with severe infection should consult a  dermatologist who may recommend the following treatment options:

1. Oral medications to kill the mite

2. Antibiotics, if there is any infection associated with scabies

3. Anti-allergics to prevent itching

4. Mild steroid creams for the first few days to reduce the intense itching and inflammation

How to prevent recurrences?

Since recurrence is very common in scabies, one needs to be extra careful when it comes to hygiene.

People who have suffered or are suffering from scabies must wash their clothes in boiling water. The clothes must remain in boiling water until their temperature comes down to normal. Your bedding, towels, bed sheets and undergarments must also be treated the same way. In case the clothes cannot be washed in boiling water they must be kept in a warm temperature for at least 10-30 minutes.


Scabies is an endemic infection present in human beings for thousands of years. If you experience a rash that is so itchy and disturbs your sleep, you must get your rash diagnosed, examined, and treated by a qualified and experienced dermatologist at the earliest.

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