A.Vogel Talks about the symptoms of scabies

What are the symptoms of scabies and how can they impact the rest of your body?

Skin Health Advisor
Ask Felicity

An introduction to the symptoms of scabies

Scabies love the warm folds of your skin, normally favouring your fingers, armpits, elbows, knees and sometimes, if you are particularly unfortunate, the areas around the genitalia and buttocks.

The symptoms of scabies normally appear as a reaction of your immune system to the invading pathogens. Chemicals such as histamine and certain anti-bodies are released to forcibly eject the parasites from your skin; however this can trigger some unpleasant side-effects that can cause moderate discomfort and stress.


A reaction may not occur for as long as six weeks after the mite has laid its eggs under the surface of the skin; however itching is the foremost symptom associated with scabies and it is usually the first to appear.

This symptom can be extremely unpleasant to experience, often being very intense and very irritating, especially during the night which can interrupt your sleep. You may be tempted, or downright unable to resist scratching the affected area.

Nevertheless, this would be a mistake as scratching will only exaggerate your symptom, cause further discomfort and put you at risk of developing a bacterial infection.


The reaction that your immune system has to scabies is rather similar to the one that presents itself with certain allergens. The chemical histamine is released into the affected area, causing swelling and inflammation, making  your skin tender to the touch and uncomfortable.


A rash in scabies will usually consist of raised pimples or blisters, marking the burrow tracts of the mites, appearing in the folds of the affected skin.

In children, symptoms can sometimes present themselves in the face and scalp regions, which can be very uncomfortable and sometimes painful for the patient. It is important that if you notice any changes to your rash, that you speak again to your doctor for further advice.

Dry skin

When the mites begin to feed off your skin cells, it can make skin appear more dry and brittle, sometimes even scaling in some areas.

This problem can linger and is usually the last symptom to fade after an outbreak of the parasite meaning that you must be careful not to agitate your sensitive skin any further or to deprive it of much needed hydration


Stress is a natural reaction to having an unwanted parasite breeding under the surface of your skin. Most sufferers are extremely grateful that they are not able to see the little blighters or they would probably feel as though they’d been sucked into a horror film.

Nevertheless, as disturbing as the thoughts of invisible mites living on your skin are, the symptoms of scabies can also invoke feelings of anxiety and depression.

The constant itching can disrupt your sleeping patterns, which has a knock-on effect on your mood, whilst inflammation and redness are highly visible symptoms which are not easy to conceal, affecting your confidence and self-esteem.

However, it is important to try and regulate your moods during this time as stress can put additional pressure on your immune system which is already working overtime to fight off the pathogens for you.

Sleep deprivation

If you are awake most of the night fighting the urge to take a cheese grater to your skin, then it is likely that you will be feeling tired and groggy the next day, inadequately rested and unprepared to deal with your symptoms.

If you are not getting a sufficient level of sleep then this can affect your mood and your immune system’s ability to cope with the infestation, possibly exacerbating your symptoms, and leading into a vicious cycle.

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