Scabies is common and anyone can get it. It should be treated quickly to stop it spreading.
Check if it's scabies
The symptoms of scabies are:
- intense itching, especially at night
- a raised rash or spots
The spots may look red. They are more difficult to see on dark skin, but you should be able to feel them.
The scabies rash usually spreads across the whole body, apart from the head.
However, older people, young children and those with a weakened immune system may develop a rash on their head and neck.
When it's not scabies
Many other things can cause itchy skin and rashes in babies and children.
A pharmacist can help with scabies
Scabies is not usually a serious condition, but it does need to be treated.
A pharmacist will recommend a cream or lotion that you apply over your whole body. It's important to read the instructions carefully.
Let the pharmacist know if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.
You'll need to repeat the treatment 1 week later.
Scabies is very infectious, but it can take up to 8 weeks for the rash to appear.
Everyone in your home needs to be treated at the same time, even if they do not have symptoms.
Anyone you have had sexual contact with in the past 8 weeks should also be treated.
Things you can do during treatment to stop scabies spreading
wash all bedding and clothing in the house at 50C or higher on the first day of treatment
put clothing that cannot be washed in a sealed bag for 3 days until the mites die
stop babies and children sucking treatment from their hands by putting socks or mittens on them
do not have sex or close physical contact until you have completed the full course of treatment
do not share bedding, clothing or towels with someone with scabies
How long it takes to get rid of scabies
You or your child can go back to work or school 24 hours after the first treatment.
Although the treatment kills the scabies mites quickly, the itching can carry on for a few weeks.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- your skin is still itching 4 weeks after treatment has finished
Scabies can spread easily
Scabies are passed from person to person by skin-to-skin contact. You cannot get scabies from pets.
People who live or work closely together in nurseries, university halls of residence or nursing homes are more at risk.
Important: Scabies and hygiene
Anyone can get scabies. It has nothing to do with poor hygiene.
Complications of scabies
Scratching the rash can cause skin infections like impetigo.
Scabies can make conditions like eczema or psoriasis worse.
Can you answer some questions about your experiences with scabies to help us improve our information?
Page last reviewed: 17 November 2020
Next review due: 17 November 2023