What is scabies?

Scabies is a skin condition in people caused by the human itch mite. The mite burrows into the upper layer of skin to live and lay eggs.

Common scabies symptoms include intense itching and a skin rash. Scabies can occur anywhere on the body but are more common on the following parts of the body:

  • Between the fingers
  • Wrist
  • Elbow
  • Armpit
  • Genitals (Penis and Vagina)
  • Nipple
  • Waist
  • Buttocks
  • Shoulder blades

Children are often more likely to get scabies. For babies and very young children scabies is often found on the head, face, neck, palms, and soles of the feet.

For people who have never had scabies before, symptoms usually take 4-6 weeks to appear. Symptoms appear more quickly in people who have had scabies before, in as few as 1 to 4 days. Scabies mites can spread to other parts of the body and from one person to another person even before symptoms start.

The same mite that causes scabies also causes crusted scabies. Crusted scabies is severe scabies that happens in people who have weakened immune systems. People with crusted scabies are infested with very large numbers of mites. This increases their risk of spreading mites to others, either from brief skin-to-skin contact or from contact with items such as bedding, clothing, furniture, rugs, and carpeting.

Who is at risk?

Scabies is found worldwide and can spread rapidly under crowded conditions where close skin-to-skin contact is frequent. Child-care facilities, nursing homes, extended-care facilities, and prisons are often sites of scabies outbreaks. Scabies is more common in long-term travelers than in those who travel for less than 8 weeks at a time.

Animals do not have scabies and cannot spread scabies to people.

What can travelers do to prevent scabies?

There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent scabies. Effective medicine to treat scabies is only available with a doctor's prescription.

Travelers can avoid scabies by not touching or having close skin-to-skin contact with a person who has a rash or who is itching. Avoid touching or handling a sick person’s clothing or bedding.

Scabies mites die when you wash bedding and clothing using hot water and hot dryer cycles or dry-clean the items. Items that cannot be dry-cleaned or laundered can be disinfested by storing them in a closed plastic bag for more than 72 hours. Scabies mites generally do not survive more than 2 to 3 days away from human skin.

After Travel


If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. 

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.


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