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Scabies - Symptoms of scabies

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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The main symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a rash in areas of the body where mites have burrowed.

The itching is often worse at night when skin is warmer. It may take four to six weeks before itching starts because this is how long it takes for the body to react to mite droppings.

If you have had a previous scabies infection, the symptoms will start within one to two days. This is because your immune system will have learnt to respond to a scabies infection.

The rash

The scabies rash is made up of tiny red insect bites or spots. If you scratch the rash, you may also develop crusty sores.

Burrow marks can be found anywhere on the body but in adults they often appear in the following areas:

  • the folds of skin between fingers and toes
  • the wrists
  • the elbows
  • around the nipples (in women)
  • around the genital area (in men) 

The rash can also sometimes occur in the following areas:

  • the underarm area
  • around the waist
  • the inside of the elbow
  • the lower buttocks
  • the lower legs
  • the soles of the feet
  • the knees
  • the shoulder blades
  • the female genital area
  • the groin
  • around the ankles

Elderly people, young children and those with a low immune system (immunocompromised) may also develop a rash on their head and neck.

In infants and young children, burrow marks tend to appear in different places on their body, including on the:

  • face
  • head
  • neck
  • scalp
  • palms of the hands
  • soles of the feet

Scabies mites leave small red blotches and silver coloured lines on the skin. These marks are caused by the mites burrowing into the skin.

In infants with scabies, blisters and pustules (small blisters that contain pus) may develop on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

Medical Review: May 26, 2012
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