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How one contracts scabies

Anyone can get infested with scabies. You can contract scabies through prolonged (15 minutes or more) skin to skin contact with someone who has scabies or by sharing clothes and/or a bed with a person with scabies. Scabies can be transmitted easily from an infected person to his or her household members and sexual partners.


One of the most common symptoms of scabies is intense itching, especially at night. The itching is caused by an immune response to the scabies mite. Your skin may also develop tiny burrows, blisters and red skin lesions, especially on your ankles, feet and wrists. The first time a person contracts scabies, it takes 2 to 6 weeks before the itching starts. With subsequent infections, the itching can develop after just a few days.


Scabies does not resolve by itself. Visit your GP if you have symptoms consistent with scabies. If you are a student you can visit our GGD outpatient clinic if:

  • You are a student or live in a student house
  • You live in the Amsterdam-Amstelland GGD area
  • You have consulted your general practitioner (GP)
  • You currently have new spots or the itching is getting worse again, 4 or more weeks after the last treatment

Scabies can be effectively treated with prescribed cream or tablets. Also, all your roommates and close contacts need treatment at the same time as you, even if they don’t have any symptoms yet. The itching may increase temporarily after treatment whilst the body clears the infection. Scabies is no longer contagious 24 hours after successful treatment. Contact your doctor if the itching persists for longer than 6 weeks.

Steps to take at home

In addition to the usage of prescribed cream or tablets bedding, clothing and towels used by infested persons at any time during the 3 days before treatment, should be machine washed and dried using hot water and hot dryer cycles, or be dry-cleaned. Alternatively, clothing, bedding and towels could be kept in closed plastic bags for at least 3 days, if washing would not be feasible.  In these ways reinfection can be avoided. If you would not do this, you will risk reinfection, as the mite can survive for up to 72 hours away from human skin.

Further information