Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow and lay eggs in the skin.

Anyone can get Scabies, but you are at higher risk through being in close contact with lots of other people (for example, when attending schools or nurseries), and if you are sexually active.

How is it passed on?

Scabies like warm places, such as skin folds, between the fingers, under fingernails, or around the buttock or breast creases. They can also hide under accessories such as watch straps, bracelets or rings.

Scabies is usually spread through skin to skin contact with an infected person, or through sexual contact.

It's also possible for Scabies to be passed on by sharing clothing, towels and bedding with someone who's infected however getting Scabies this way is rare.


The symptoms of scabies can take up to 8 weeks to occur. These include

  • intense itching that's worse at night
  • a skin rash on areas (such as between the fingers) where the mites have burrowed.

Long term effects

If left untreated, scratched areas can become increasingly irritated. This can lead to a further secondary skin infection.

Although Scabies usually doesn’t result in permanent marking or scarring, a secondary infection can increase the likelihood of this happening.


Scabies is not usually a serious condition, but does need to be treated. Treatment involves using creams that contain insecticides that kill the Scabies mite. You may also be offered treatment to relieve itching.

To prevent reinfection, all those you live with and any close contacts, including recent sexual partners, should be treated at the same time as you, even if they don't have any symptoms.

You will also need to wash all bed linen, nightwear and towels at a temperature above 50°C.

Telling your partner

If you have been diagnosed with genital Scabies, you should tell your current partner(s) so they can also get checked and, if necessary, treated.

Avoid having sex and other forms of close bodily contact until both you and your partner have completed the full course of treatment.

How to avoid Scabies

Avoid prolonged skin to skin contact with an infected person, for example, holding hands, sharing a bed, or sexual contact.

Where to get tested

You can visit an AXESS sexual health clinic or your GP. Often talking to you about your symptoms and a look at your skin is enough for clinicians to diagnose Scabies. They may also take a skin sample - scraping off a tiny layer of skin cells. This should not hurt.

If you or your partner has been diagnosed with genital Scabies, you should also have a full sexual health check to make sure you don't have any STIs.


How would I know if I had developed a secondary skin infection?

The area will become red, swollen and painful.

Does Scabies affect fertility?

No, Scabies does not affect fertility in men or women.