How Long Does Scabies Last?

Scabies is a common skin condition caused by an infestation of Sarcoptes scabieia parasitic skin mite. The mites burrow under your skin where they feed and lay eggs, creating a cycle that replaces the dead mites with new ones.

Intense itching and a rash are common with scabies. These symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction to the mites' feces or saliva.

The time it takes the itching or rash to appear can vary. You can spread the mites as soon as you're infested, even if you don't have symptoms. Often, they are spread from person to person while sleeping in the same bed or during other close contact.

While proper treatment can kill the mites quickly, itching can persist after the mites die. Complications and long-term effects can occur without the right care.

In this article, you'll learn when scabies is contagious, how it's treated, how long scabies lasts with proper treatment and what you can do to prevent its spread.

Itching a scabies rash

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Scabies Life Span

Scabies mites burrow under a human host's epidermis, which is the top layer of skin. The mites can live here between one and two months. When mature, the female can lay two to three eggs per day until she dies. About 10% of the eggs laid survive to adulthood.

These eggs hatch as larvae in three to four days. When the larvae mature, they repeat the cycle of tunneling and mating to expand the number of eggs. The mites continue to burrow and reproduce until they are destroyed by treatment.

Extent of Infestation

If you become infested with scabies, you will usually have about 10–15 scabies mites at any one time. People with a more intense form of the condition, called crusted scabies, can have infestations that include thousands of scabies mites.

While scabies treatment is usually effective in killing the mites, you may experience symptoms of itching for several weeks or months after treatment. Problems like skin infections and health issues can extend the impact of scabies, long after the mites are killed.

Is Scabies Contagious?

Scabies is a highly contagious disease. It is most often passed from prolonged skin-to-skin contact that lasts about 10 minutes or longer, even before the host experiences symptoms.

You're not likely to get scabies from casual contact like a handshake or a hug. Since the mites don't fly or jump, they require constant contact to crawl from the host onto your skin.

Scabies is usually transmitted from an infested host to these types of personal contacts:

  • Household member
  • Sexual partner
  • Caregiver

It can also spread easily among people who live or spend most of their time in the following types of environments:

  • Childcare facilities
  • Long-term care facilities like nursing homes
  • Correctional institutions

In some cases, you can get scabies from contact with the contaminated bedding, clothing, or furniture of an person with scabies. This occurs more often when the host has an unusually high number of mites or has crusted scabies.

Scabies Treatment

Scabies treatment requires the use of prescription medications, called scabicides, to kill the mites and their eggs. When applied according to directions, these topical creams and lotions are considered effective in killing the mites.

The following prescription medications are approved for the treatment of scabies:

  • Nix (permethrin) 5% cream
  • Eurax (crotamiton) 10% lotion or 10% cream
  • Sulfur 5%–10% ointment
  • Benzyl benzoate 25% lotion
  • Natroba (spinosad) 0.9% liquid
  • Scabene (lindane) 1% lotion
  • Stromectol (oral ivermectin) when topical medications have failed or the infestation is severe

It's important to continue the full course of treatment as prescribed by your healthcare provider, even if your symptoms improve.

Complications of Scabies

While scabies is usually not dangerous, it can involve the following complications when treatment is delayed or improperly used:

After Treatment

Even if your treatment is successful in killing the scabies mites, the itching and rash can persist for several weeks or longer after treatment. Some scabicides, like permethrin cream, contain allergens that can irritate your skin. This can make it hard to tell if scabies is going away.

When treatment is effective, new rashes and burrows should stop appearing within 24–48 hours of treatment.

Depending on the extent of your itching and rash, your healthcare provider may advise the use of an antihistamine or steroid cream to relieve symptoms.

Retreatment with the same or a different scabicide may be necessary if signs of mites, such as new burrows or ongoing itching, continue for more than two to four weeks after your initial treatment.


Being infested and treated for scabies doesn't protect you from catching scabies again. In fact, your close household members or sexual contacts can reinfect you immediately after your treatment if they had become infested when you had the condition.

The best way to prevent scabies is to avoid prolonged skin-to-skin contact with people who have scabies. However, since a person with this condition can transmit scabies to others even if they don't have symptoms, it can be hard to know whom to avoid.

Know Your Risk Factors

Living or working in a communal living environment, like a skilled nursing facility, a dorm, or at camp, increases your risk of catching scabies. If you develop a rash or itchiness, consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible to prevent the spread of untreated scabies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that household members and recent sexual contacts also receive treatment at the same time that the patient with scabies is treated. This helps reduce the risk of spread and prevents reinfestation.

To protect yourself against reinfestation and prevent further transmission of scabies, use the following home remedy on the day you start treatment:

  • Wash your clothes, bedding and towels in a washing machine using the hottest water possible.
  • Dry all clothes in a dryer using the hottest setting possible.
  • Items that can't be washed should be taken to a dry cleaner or sealed in plastic for at least one week. This may include coats, jackets, blankets, bedspreads, soft toys, and pillows.


Scabies is a common skin problem caused by mites that burrow under your skin to feed and lay eggs. The cycle goes on as the eggs mature to replace the adult mites that die.

The scabies mites and eggs trigger an immune response. Intense itching and a rash are common responses to a scabies infestation. A person with scabies can infest others, even if they don't have symptoms.

You can pass scabies along to household members or other close contacts until you use a treatment that kills the mites and their eggs. Without treatment, you may get a skin infection or more severe health problems.

While treatments often kill the mites on you, you still may suffer from symptoms for weeks to months until your skin heals.

A Word From Verywell

It can be hard to live with scabies and its symptoms. As symptoms appear and a rash becomes visible, it can be embarrassing to be around other people. The discomfort of the itching and rash can worsen at night, interrupting your sleep.

Getting an accurate diagnosis of any rash and persistent itching is the best way to reduce the amount of time you have to deal with the problem. Prescribed treatments have proven effective in killing scabies mites and their eggs. Without new burrows and eggs, your skin can begin healing and symptoms can lessen.

Healthcare providers can prescribe the best treatment for you. They can also offer support so you can cope with the frustration and isolation that you may feel while managing the condition. Using your treatment as prescribed can give you the best chance for prompt recovery and relief of your symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take for scabies to go away?

    Approved treatments are effective in killing the mites quickly. However, you can have symptoms of an itchy rash for a few weeks to months after the mites die. Factors such as level of infestation and your overall health can affect how long you deal with scabies after treatment. It's possible to develop a skin infection or more serious problems if treatment was delayed or the problem was misdiagnosed.

  • Can scabies go away on its own?

    Scabies doesn't go away on its own. You must kill the scabies mites to stop the cycle of burrowing and reproducing that replaces the mites that die. This requires the use of prescribed topical medication only available from a healthcare provider.

  • What will happen if scabies is left untreated?

    If left untreated, the rash and itching can cause damage to your skin. The constant itching can make you vulnerable to a bacterial skin infection. Other health complications, like kidney failure or rheumatic fever, can also develop if the problem remains untreated. Also, you can pass it on to another person.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parasites - scabies: medications.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Scabies: diagnosis and treatment.

  6. World Health Organization. Scabies.

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  10. Thompson R, Westbury S, Slape D. Paediatrics: how to manage scabiesDrugs Context. 2021;10:2020-12-3. doi:10.7573/dic.2020-12-3

By Anna Giorgi
Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer who specializes in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes over 25 years of writing on health and wellness-related subjects for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to holding positions in healthcare communications.