Scabies is an itchy skin infection caused by a tiny mite that has burrowed into the upper layer of the skin and caused inflammation.

Scabies is spread by prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It is most commonly found in children and sexually active adolescents. Settings that promote close skin-to-skin contact are also vulnerable to scabies, including nursing homes, prisons and child care facilities/preschools.

Symptoms are an intense itching rash that creates sores and severe inflammation of the skin. Severe itching typically begins at night. In severe cases the sores may harden and crust over, indicating that hundreds of mites have infected the skin – severe cases of Norwegian scabies are usually found in those with compromised immune systems or the elderly.

A dermatologist can confirm scabies by examination and may decide to do further examination of a small sample of tissue under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis. Once scabies is confirmed, your doctor will prescribe a “scabicide” – a prescription strength topical ointment to be applied to the affected area, and sometimes the whole body, or an oral medication. Retreatment seven days later is recommended to ensure all mites are treated.