My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Ask Your Question

WebMD Answers

120 Characters remaining
120 Characters remaining
  • First, try and keep your question as short as possible.
  • Include specific words that will help us identify questions that may already have your answer.
  • If you don't find your answer, you can post your question to WebMD Experts and Contributors.


Posted: | Report This Report Question |

Answers From Experts & Organizations (1)

Medical Reference

Scabies is caused by the miteSarcoptes scabiei. Scabies mites are attracted to the warmth and smell of humans. Female mites burrow into the skin, creating small, threadlike tunnels that you can sometimes see. The mites lay eggs and leave feces in these tunnels.

How scabies is spread1

  • Scabies usually is spread by close, intimate contact, such as sleeping in the same bed with or touching someone who has scabies. The scabies mite cannot fly or jump, and it moves very slowly.
  • Scabies mites can live up to 36 hours without a human host. During this time, the mites may spread to other people. Mites usually spread through skin-to-skin contact. But they can also spread from contact with clothing, bed linens, and other household and personal items.
  • A mite burrows very quickly under the skin, especially in areas where it is rough or wrinkled, such as the elbows, knuckles, and knees. Touching or scratching an area that is infested with mites can spread them to other parts of the body.
  • After burrowing under the skin, a female mite lays 10 to 25 eggs before she dies. The eggs hatch into larvae 2 to 3 days later. These larvae move to the skin's surface and become adults within about 14 to 17 days. This cycle continues until the mites are killed.

The scabies mite that infests humans does not live on dogs or other pets. And animal-transmitted scabies mites do not survive or reproduce on humans. But they can live long enough on humans to cause itchy hives or raised bumps that last a few days.

Contagious and incubation periods

Scabies is contagious. If you have scabies, you can spread mites to other people before and after you have symptoms, for as long as you remain infested and untreated. After your first infestation, several weeks may pass before you have symptoms. You are contagious during this time, which is known as the incubation period.

If you ever become infested with mites again, it will likely take only 2 or 3 days for you to notice symptoms.

This answer should not be considered medical advice...down arrowThis answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.up arrow

| Report This Report Answer

Was this helpful?


Thanks for your feedback.

425 of 448 found this helpful
Read the Original Article: Scabies-Cause
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise Healthwise This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information. © 1995-2011 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.