Scabies is a skin condition due to infestation by a mite (known as Sarcoptes scabiei) which burrow into the outer layer of the skin folds such as around the breast, armpits, web of the fingers, elbow, wrist, waistline, buttocks and groin areas.  It can also be found on the palm of the hands and soles of the feet in children. Scabies can spread easily through close physical contact in places such as child care centres or school.  The mites cannot fly but crawl slowly and as such spread comes from sharing personal items such as clothing or bedding and prolonged skin-to-skin contact.  Mites can survive 2-3 days on outside surfaces. 

Click to view AAD video on Scabies

Symptoms & Signs

  • Intense itching especially at night
  • Little burrow tracks (mite eggs) appear like bumps on the skin but may be easily seen with the naked eye
  • Pimple like rash which may look like insect bite or spots
  • Skin infection characterised by weepy, painful bumps which may become excoriated from over scratching


Treatment should be started for the patient as well for those who are staying together with the patient even though they may not have any skin lesions or symptoms.  Most widely used treatment for scabies are topical medications such as Permethrin 5% that kills the scabies mite (known as Scabicide), Lindane or Crotamiton 10% lotions. Only Permethrin or Sulphur lotion may be used in infants.

  • The topical medication needs to be applied on the affected areas overnight (or around 8-12 hours) and for 1-2 hours for children.  Use as directed by your doctor because the lotion is a strong poison
  • Anti-histamine medication for the itchy symptoms

Itch in scabies is due to a hypersensitivity reaction (allergy) to mites and their faeces (scybala).  The itching may continue for several weeks after treatment even if all the mites and eggs are killed. If itching is still present more than 2-4 weeks after treatment or if new burrows or pimple-like rash lesions continue to appear, re-treatment by your doctor may be necessary.

Prevention of Spread

During the treatment period, you need to prevent the spread to others as well as reinfection.  Clean the areas where the mites can be found

  • Bedding, clothing and towels should be decontaminated by washing in hot water and drying in a hot dryer, by dry-cleaning or by sealing in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours. Scabies mites generally do not survive more than 2 to 3 days away from human skin
  • Clean toys or other personal items which the person has come into contact with
  • Notify your child’s school or childcare centre so that they can also perform preventative cleaning

See a skin doctor to get the correct diagnosis and treatment

Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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