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Scabies is similar to pubic lice, but the bugs are too small to be seen. The bugs dig under the skin.

How can I get scabies?

Scabies spreads quickly in places where there a lot of people like in hospitals, day care centers, and nursing homes. In order to get scabies, you have to be around someone who has it for a long time (not just a quick handshake). It is easier to get it if you spend the night with someone who has scabies and if you sleep in the same bed.

What does scabies do to my body?

For a person who has never had scabies, signs may take 4-6 weeks to begin. For a person who has had scabies before, signs appear within several days. Scabies causes very small itchy sores all over the body. These sores can sometimes get bacteria in them.

Scabies also causes pimple-like bumps, burrows (tunnels just under the skin) or a rash on the skin, especially the area between the fingers, where the skin folds on the wrist, elbow, or knee, the penis, the breast, or shoulder blades. Scabies is usually not on the neck or face.

Is there a way to get rid of scabies?

Yes. Your health care provider can prescribe treatment: a liquid medicine that you will put on areas where you have rashes or the burrows. You may itch for 2-3 weeks, but it doesn’t mean you still have scabies. Your provider can give you more medicine if you keep itching past 2-3 weeks, or if the itching is very bad.

You should wash your clothes, bed sheets and towels after treatment since the bugs can live in them. You’ll need to wash infected clothing and linen on the hot cycle setting (130 F) and dry on the hot cycle for at least 20 minutes. Infested clothing or linens that can’t be laundered may be dry-cleaned or placed in a bag for two weeks to ensure decontamination. Furniture and carpeting may be vacuumed to rid the infested area of mites. Dispose of the vacuum bag afterward.

How do I find out if I have scabies?

A health care provider can tell if you have scabies by looking at the burrows (often in a zigzag or “S” pattern) or rash.

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