STD Information: Scabies


Scabies is a skin infestation by mites (tiny bugs). Mites likes to burrow in warm moist places: between fingers/toes, the wrist, armpits, breasts, skin folds, and waist. The female mite gives off a chemical as it burrows under the skin. This chemical, not bites, is what causes the itching.

  • Symptoms: Itching, especially at night. The first time a person gets scabies it takes 2-6 weeks for the itching to start. The second time a person gets scabies the itching starts in 1-2 days. Scabies can mimic other skin rashes and look different on different people. Test for scabies is a small skin scraping for microscopic examination.
  • WTW Transmission: Yes. Primarily by close contact, including sex, with an infected person. Mites can live a couple of days in fabric and dust. An infected person can transmit scabies even if they have no symptoms.
  • Treatment: 5% permethrin cream (not the 1% used for lice). Be sure to put some lotion under finger and toe nails. All sex partners, close contacts, and anyone else living with you within the last month should be tested and treated. You may have to be treated more than once. Itching may continue for a few days even if the mites are dead, though it should lessen. For washable clothing, bedding, towels, rugs and toys use the HOT cycle of washer & dryer or dry clean. Things that can't be washed in hot water can be placed in plastic bags and sealed for 3-4 weeks.

Please note that for the purpose of our web site we are focusing primarily on woman to woman transmission (WTW) and only providing a general overview of the infections themselves. You may want to check out our Bibliography and Links sections for more in depth information or contact us with specific questions through STD Q&A's.