How Long is a Scabies Rash Contagious For?


A man sitting down itches his inner arm with his other hand.
Highlights
  • Human scabies is a highly contagious infestation of the skin caused by tiny itch mites.

  • Although scabies is typically spread through sexual contact with an infected person, any form of prolonged skin-to-skin contact can increase your risk of infection.

  • Scabies is contagious for up to six weeks before the symptoms appear until a day after the treatment.

What are Scabies and How Do They Spread?

Scabies are caused by a tiny human itch mite, Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. The microscopic scabies mite burrows into the skin surface, producing a rash and intense itching.

A scabies infestation usually occurs in people with weakened immune systems.

The scabies mites are typically spread by skin-to-skin contact during sex with an infected person.

There’s also a risk of contracting scabies in crowded places such as child-care facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, extended care facilities, and prisons. In rare cases, you can get scabies by sharing a towel, bedding, or clothing with somebody with an infestation.

How Do I Know if I Have Scabies?

A scabies rash is often difficult to recognize. It can be mistaken for eczema and other skin conditions. The most common symptoms of scabies include:

  • Intense itching, especially at night - This is the body’s reaction to the mites, the mite eggs, and the mite fecal matter

  • A pimply skin rash and tiny raised lines that often first appear in skin folds, especially between the fingers, on wrists, and crook of the elbows

A crusted scabies rash is rarely seen above the neck, except in infants and young children.

How Long is the Infectious Period of a Scabies Rash?

Scabies becomes contagious the moment that mites infect the skin and remains transmissible until all of the mites and their eggs have been eliminated. This process can take between four to six weeks.

It’s important to know that the mite only needs about 10 minutes of skin-to-skin contact to pass from one person to another. Even a brief handshake is enough to infect someone else.

The first symptoms of scabies appear after two to six weeks, but an infested person starts spreading the mites immediately.

People who have had scabies in the past develop symptoms within one to four days.

Two people shake hands.

When is a Scabies Rash Most Contagious?

Scabies are most contagious during the early stages of infestation, especially if symptoms haven’t developed yet.

Without symptoms, you won’t know that you have scabies and you can continue spreading the infestation to other people.

How Long Can Scabies Survive Outside of the Body?

Without treatment, individual mites live on human skin for one to two months. This means that scabies can still be contagious even if you’ve overcome your initial infection.

However, if they fall off the skin, the mites can only survive for two to three days. They also won’t be able to reproduce without a human host, meaning they likely aren’t contagious.

That’s also why it’s rare to contract a scabies infection from nonhuman contact.

When is it Safe to Return to Normal Activities After a Scabies Infection?

Once you’ve completed your treatment for scabies, it’s generally safe to return to normal activities. Patients are typically not contagious 24 hours after treatment.

It’s important to complete the full course of your treatment to ensure that all of the mites and their eggs have been killed.

This process usually takes four to six weeks, but some individuals require longer courses, depending on the severity of the infestation.

How Soon After Starting Treatment Will I Feel Better?

The mites will usually start disappearing 24 hours after treatment, but the red bumps and itching may last for an additional two to four weeks.

If itching continues for longer or new rash spots appear, speak to your doctor about a second round of treatment.

How Do I Stop Scabies From Spreading?

If you are diagnosed with scabies, be sure to tell the people you’ve had sex with during the past month. Also, inform everyone who’s been in close physical contact with you.

If not, the mites will keep going around, and possibly come back to you.

Once you start to treat scabies, wash all your clothes, towels, and linens in hot water. Put the items that cannot be washed in sealed plastic bags for one week, vacuum thoroughly, and then dispose of the vacuum bag.

Avoid sexual contact until you have completed treatment. Note that using male or female condoms does not prevent scabies from spreading.

A woman itches her arm, which appears red.

When Should I Visit a Doctor About My Symptoms?

Be sure to visit a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe itching in the areas usually associated with scabies rash

  • Close contact with a person who has scabies

  • You’ve been treated for scabies but have symptoms after a month

  • Signs of a bacterial infection, like redness or pus-filled sores

  • Any other side effects that worry you

Where Can I Learn More About Scabies and Other STDs?

If you suspect that you have scabies or are concerned about any of your symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.

You can speak to any of LifeMD’s board-certified physicians or nurses for a professional diagnosis and treatment regime.

Head to LifeMD to make a telehealth appointment today.

Sources

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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