Scabies

Scabies are parasites that infect the skin and cause really intense itching. Scabies are transferred by skin-to-skin contact and can occur anywhere on the body. This means that while scabies can be passed through sexual contact, it is usually passed through non-sexual skin-to-skin contact.

Getting Tested

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Type of Test

The test for scabies is a visual examination. Most of the time, a diagnosis can be made based on history of exposure to scabies or the presence of common symptoms like a rash and itching that gets worse at night. A health care provider might also take a scraping of this infected skin to examine under a microscope to look for mites, eggs, larvae or feces.

Test Timing

Diagnosis is difficult if symptoms are not present. If a person has scabies for the first time, it will usually take 2-6 weeks for symptoms to start to appear. For those who have had scabies before, symptoms can occur in as little as 24 hours.

  • Scabies causes intense itching and a pimply rash. The itching will often be worse at night than during the day. Itching and rash most often show up on the penis, buttocks, wrist, nipples, waist, shoulder blades, arm pits, elbows and between the fingers, but it is not limited to these areas. Sometimes scabies might also result in tiny burrows in the skin caused by the female mites tunneling beneath the skin. If a person has scabies for the first time, it will usually take 2-6 weeks for symptoms to start appearing. For those who have had scabies before, symptoms can occur in as little as 24 hours. It is important to know that even when symptoms are not present, scabies can still spread.

  • Prescription creams called scabicides can be used to treat scabies. These creams kill the mites and some also kill the eggs. The cream will be applied to the skin from the neck down to the toes and washed off after 8-14 hours. There is also an antibiotic that can be taken by mouth in a single dose, followed by another single dose two weeks later.

    Because scabies are so easy to pass from one person to another any sexual partners and close personal or household contacts should be examined and treated. Bedding and clothing must also be decontaminated by machine washing and drying on hot cycle or dry cleaning. Removing from body contact for at least 72 hours will also ensure that the mites can’t be transmitted.

  • Although scabies is most commonly spread through skin-to-skin contact, it can be spread through sexual contact with someone who has scabies.

  • As with all STIs, the most effective protection is to abstain from sexual activity or be monogamous with one long-term partner who does not have scabies. Condoms do not protect against infection.