What Is Post-Scabies Syndrome?

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Scabies is an infestation by a microscopic mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. It burrows just beneath the skin and lays eggs, causing intense itching and a rash of small red bumps. Medication can kill the mites, but some people react to the debris left over after the mites die. This is called post-scabies syndrome.

This article reviews post-scabies syndrome, including symptoms, length, treatment, and when to seek care.

How Scabies Affects the Skin

Verywell / Emily Roberts

When Does Post-Scabies Syndrome Typically Occur?

If you have scabies, it can take about four weeks for medications called scabicides to kill the mites. You may need another series of treatments if you are still itching from mites.

If you are still itching after successful treatment, you may have post-scabies syndrome. It can take weeks or even several months for this reaction to go away. However, you are not contagious to others during this time.

How Common Is Post Scabies Syndrome?

Estimates vary widely, but one small study found that 34% of participants who had scabies developed post-scabies itch. Scabies is more commonly seen in people in close contact with each other, such as in the military, nursing homes, sexually active adults, and children and their caretakers.

Post-Scabies Syndrome Causes

Post-scabies syndrome is an immune system reaction, or allergy, to the debris from the dead mites, including feces. It is more likely to occur in people 55 and older and children.

Post-Scabies Syndrome Symptoms

The symptoms of post-scabies syndrome, which appear following successful treatment for scabies, include:

  • Darkish red lumps up to 3/4 inches in diameter that tend to develop on the scrotum or genitals
  • Severe itch that can be worse at night
  • Itchiness that persists for weeks or months

Treatment

When your healthcare provider has confirmed that you no longer have scabies mites but you are still itching, they can recommend treatment for post-scabies syndrome. Treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) steroid creams
  • OTC antihistamines
  • Prescription steroid creams or pills
  • UV light therapy

You can also soak in a warm bath and closely but gently wash the itchy areas of your skin to help remove mite debris.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

The intense itch of post-scabies syndrome can make it almost irresistible to scratch, but scratching can damage or tear the skin. In addition, it can open the skin to bacterial infections like impetigo or cellulitis, which can be serious. You can also scar your skin by scratching.

If you've been successfully treated for scabies, but are still itching, call your healthcare provider, who can help you manage the itch until it subsides.

Summary

Post-scabies syndrome is when you continue to experience a severe itch after you have been treated for scabies infestation. Post-scabies syndrome is due to an allergic reaction to the debris from the dead mites. Unfortunately, it can last for several months.

Some treatments—both over-the-counter and prescription—can help alleviate the itching of post-scabies syndrome until it goes away.

A Word From Verywell

Scabies mites are unpleasant, but scabies treatments are very effective. If the itch lingers long after the mites are gone, seek help from a healthcare provider. Remember that prevention is the best strategy for scabies, which means avoiding skin-to-skin contact around someone who has or may have scabies.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the long-term effects of scabies?

    Scabies can make people scratch so intensely that they create sores on their skin, which can become infected. Rarely, scabies can lead to a kind of kidney inflammation called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.

  • How do I know if my scabies are gone?

    Medication is effective at killing scabies, but it may take several weeks for all the mites to die. A healthcare provider can examine you to see if any mites remain. Sometimes it takes more than one course of treatment to get rid of the mites.

  • Can scabies come back?

    You can get reinfected with scabies if you are exposed again after treatment. Scabies is caused by microscopic mites on people's skin or on their clothing or bedding, so anytime you are very near the mites, it's possible you can be infected. If you don't treat scabies, it can last for months.

6 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.
  1. Australian College of Dermatologists. Scabies.

  2. Chiu LW, Berger TG, Chang AY. Management of common scabies and postscabetic itch in adults. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. 2021;7(5):716-720. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2021.09.001

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Scabies: who gets and causes.

  4. Sunderkötter C. Wohlrab J, Hamm H. Scabies: epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2021;118(41):695-704. doi:10.3238/arztebl.m2021.0296

  5. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Scabies.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scabies.

By Nancy LeBrun
In addition to her extensive health and wellness writing, Nancy has written about many general interest topics for publications as diverse as Newsweek, Teen Vogue, abcnews.com, and Craftsmanship Quarterly. She has authored a book about documentary filmmaking, a screenplay about a lost civil rights hero, and ghostwritten several memoirs.