Scabies, or ‘the itch’, is a contagious skin disease. It is caused by the Scabies mite which is so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye. The mite digs tunnels into the surface of your skin and lays eggs there. Your skin then has an allergic reaction to the mite, which causes itching.
Scabies occurs regularly in the Netherlands.
- Itching that continues to get worse. You can have itching all over your body, especially at night and when it is hot. The itching is an allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs and their faeces.
- Blisters, red lumps or flaky skin on your palms, between your fingers, on your wrists, elbows, feet and genitals.
- You may also see red stripes on your skin. This is where the mites have dug tunnels.
- Children up to the age of four can also have itching and blisters on their head.
If you get scabies for the first time, the time between getting it and developing symptoms is 2 to 6 weeks. If you have had scabies before, you will start itching after just a few days. A person who has had scabies can get the disease again.
How do you get scabies?
You can get scabies through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has scabies. That contact must be more that 15 minutes. For example:
- Helping someone who has scabies wash and dress.
- During sex or intimate contact with someone who has scabies
- Sleeping in the same bed as someone who has scabies
You can also become infected if you:
- Put on clothes belonging to someone who has scabies
- Use a stuffed toy belonging to someone who has scabies
- Use a hat or slippers belonging to someone who has scabies.
- Have contact with pets. A pet cannot get scabies itself, but petting and cuddling can allow the mite to temporarily get into the fur and survive here for 3 days.
A person who has scabies is contagious as long as there are mites and eggs of mites in the skin. Are you being treated for scabies? In that case you are no longer contagious 12 hours after treatment.
Do you think you, or someone else in your family has scabies? Then contact your family doctor (GP).
Do you have scabies and think you might have infected someone else? Then tell him or her to see their family doctor (GP).
Going to daycare, work, or school
A child with scabies can return to daycare or school 12 hours after treatment.
- Does your child have scabies? Talk to their teacher or daycare supervisor. They can inform other parents, in consultation with the Public health Service. Parents can then pay attention to the symptoms of scabies in their child. Sometimes extra steps are necessary at the childcare center or school.
- An adult can return to work after treatment
- Do you work in health care or with small children? Then consult your employer or company doctor before returning to work.
- Do not use clothing or bedding from someone with scabies.
- Do not have skin contact with someone with scabies.
- When traveling, use your own sheets or liner.
Scabies does not go away on its own and can only be treated with a special cream or tablets.
The family doctor (GP) can write a prescription for this cream or tablets. Treatment only helps if you also wash clothes and bedding thoroughly. Before you start treatment, read the following documents carefully.
- Treating scabies: https://www.rivm.nl/en/scabies/treating-scabies
- Step-by-step instructions for treating scabies with permethrin cream: https://www.rivm.nl/en/en/documenten/step-by-step-instructions-for-treating-scabies-with-permethrin-cream
- Step-by-step instructions for treating scabies with Ivermectin tablets: https://www.rivm.nl/en/en/documenten/Step-by-step-instructions-for-treating-scabies-with-Ivermectin-tablets
Been in contact with someone with scabies
You have been in contact with someone who has scabies. Think carefully about what kind of contact you have had. You are a contact of someone with scabies if you:
- Had skin-to-skin contact for 15 minutes or more
- Had sex
- Wore each other's clothes
- Are roommates, for example in a student house or in a family
- Have slept in the same bed
Get treated with medication. After all, you are at risk of having scabies yourself. It can take 2 to 6 weeks for the symptoms of scabies to appear.
You are not a contact of someone with scabies if you are roommates but do not share:
- The same kitchen, bathroom and toilet
- The same clothes, towels and bedding.
You are contagious from about 2 weeks after contact with someone with scabies. Get treatment if you know you have been in contact with someone with scabies. This will prevent you from developing symptoms and passing the mite to others. Even then, carefully follow the step-by-step instructions to make the treatment successful.
Medications through your doctor
Call your family doctor and tell him that you have been in contact with someone with scabies. Your doctor will prescribe medication for scabies. Treatment always involves taking cream or pills two times, a week apart.
If you do have symptoms of scabies, contact your family doctor (GP). The family doctor can determine if you have scabies and prescribe treatment. If you have scabies, tell your roommates and contacts so they can treat themselves as well.