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Clearing Up Myths About Scabies

Scabies is an infestation of the skin by microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei, which burrow into the top layers of a person’s skin and lay eggs. The activity of these tiny mites typically causes a severe itch and rash in the area of infestation. The condition can be confused initially with mosquito bites or acne, but the severe itch—especially at night—is a characteristic indicator of scabies infestation.

Contrary to common belief, scabies is not a result of poor hygiene, and the infestation can occur in people who bathe daily. Another misconception is the fear that scabies is highly contagious. Although the condition is contagious to some degree, prolonged skin-to-skin contact is typically required for the mites to crawl from one person to another. According to experts, it is much less likely for scabies mites to infect a person from casual contact, such as a handshake or touching a garment worn by someone with scabies. In addition, unlike mosquitoes and fleas, scabies mites cannot fly or jump from one person to another. If you suspect an itch with rash might be scabies, check with your physician. Treatment with creams, ointments or oral medications will kill the mites and their eggs.

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