Symptoms of scabies 

The main symptoms of scabies are intense itching and a rash in areas of the body where the mites have burrowed.

The itching is often worse at night, when your skin is warmer. It may take four to six weeks before the itching starts because this is how long it takes for the body to react to mite droppings.

Symptoms will start within one to two days if you've had a scabies infection in the past. This is because your immune system will have learned to respond to a scabies infection.

The rash

The scabies rash consists of tiny red spots. Scratching the rash may cause crusty sores to develop.

Burrow marks can be found anywhere on the body. They're short (1cm or less), wavy, silver-coloured lines on the skin, with a black dot at one end that can be seen with a magnifying glass.

In adults, burrow marks often appear in the following areas:

  • the folds of skin between fingers and toes
  • the palms of the hands
  • the soles and sides of the feet 
  • the wrists
  • the elbows
  • around the nipples (in women)
  • around the genital area (in men) 

The rash usually affects the whole body, apart from the head. The following areas can be particularly affected:

  • the underarm area
  • around the waist
  • the inside of the elbow
  • the lower buttocks
  • the lower legs
  • the soles of the feet
  • the knees
  • the shoulder blades
  • the female genital area
  • the groin
  • around the ankles

Elderly people, young children and those with a low immune system (immunocompromised) may also develop a rash on their head and neck.

Men usually have one or more very itchy, lumpy, 3 to 10mm spots on the skin of the genitals (on the penis and scrotum). 

In infants and young children, burrow marks tend to appear in different places on their body, including on the:

  • face
  • head
  • neck
  • scalp
  • palms of the hands
  • soles of the feet

Scabies mites leave small red blotches and silver-coloured lines on the skin. These marks are caused by the mites burrowing into the skin.

In infants with scabies, blisters and pustules (small blisters that contain pus) may develop on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

Picture of scabies rash

Infants with scabies may develop blisters on their feet 

Page last reviewed: 12/08/2014

Next review due: 12/08/2016