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What is Scabies?

Scabies is a very contagious condition caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the outer layer of skin. The infestation causes an allergic rash with itching. The itching can be very severe and is typically worse at night. Scabies is common and can be found in people of all ages, races and social classes. It is especially prevalent in situations where people live in close quarters such as long-term care facilities, family households, college dorms and nursing homes.

The rash may look like little bumps or blisters and is typically found on the hands, feet, armpits, abdomen, genitals and buttocks. Sometimes there is only itching without a noticeable rash and it can be difficult to diagnose since there may only be 10-15 mites on an individual. However, it is easily spread among people who have prolonged skin-to-skin contact. Symptoms usually occur about 4-8 weeks after exposure if a person has not previously had scabies. If it is a re-infestation, itching and rash may occur within days of exposure.

How do You Treat Scabies?

Scabies is a very treatable condition. Your dermatologist will prescribe permethrin cream or ivermectin pills to treat this infestation. The treatment must be repeated twice, one week apart to make sure the mites and eggs (which hatch a week later) are killed. All family members, household members and close contacts should be treated simultaneously even if they do not have a rash or itching. Some people with scabies have little or no itching but can still be contagious. Re-infestation is very common and usually occurs if not all close contacts were appropriately treated.

Mites may live off of the body for several days. In addition to treatment, all clothing, bedding, pillows, sheets, and towels used in the last 72 hours prior to treatment should be laundered in hot water and dried on high heat for 30 minutes. For items that cannot be laundered, seal them in air-tight plastic bags for 1 week. Some items may be dry-cleaned. Carpets and furniture/upholstery should be vacuumed. The same cleaning procedure should be repeated in 1 week after the second treatment.

It is important to realize that the rash and itching can take a while to go away. The itching may not resolve for up to 4-5 weeks despite effective treatment. The allergic reaction and rash may continue until the dead mites are shed from the skin. A dermatologist may recommend anti-itch treatments to control the symptoms until it resolves on its own.

Additional Scabies Resources

Links to Additional Information:

American Academy of Dermatology Scabies Videos:

Why Iowa Dermatology Consultants?

Iowa Dermatology Consultants believes in a patient focused approach to care.  We work with patients forming an active partnership in treatment to help repair the physical and emotional damage of skin disease.  Our Ankeny and Ames locations allow us to conveniently treat patients across the Des Moines metro area and all of Central Iowa including Ames, Carroll, Fort Dodge, Iowa Falls, Marshalltown, Huxley, Slater, and Indianola.  

At Iowa Dermatology Consultants, all of our physicians are board-certified dermatologists. Your care provided by Dr. Snider, Dr. Smith, or Dr. Myers is founded in knowledge and experience which exceeds that of a general practitioner.  Together they have almost 50 years of combined experience in diagnosing and treating a vast array of skin conditions.  This includes over 16,000 hours of patient care training to ensure that a board-certified dermatologist can expertly diagnosis and treat over 3000 dermatologic conditions.

Whether you’re coming to us for help with skin cancer or diseases like acne, psoriasis, and eczema; or to reverse the signs of aging with Botox, chemical peels or other cosmetic procedures, at Iowa Dermatology Consultants you will be getting the best dermatologic care in Central Iowa.