How do You Get Scabies in the First Place?

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how to d you get scabies

There are two kinds of people that land on this page.

Either you’re:

A.) Just curious about scabies because you’ve heard about them.


B.) You are infested, or your friends/family are infested, and you’re freaking out trying to figure out how this happened.

I hope, for your sake, that you fall into category A.

If you fall into dreadful category B, then I pity you.

You are probably wondering how did I get scabies? How do you catch scabies in the first place? Where do you get scabies from? How exactly does one get scabies?

Related: How to Get Rid of Scabies at Home Fast

It’s a lot of questions. It’s already hard enough just having to deal with your infestation now that you have it.

But luckily, this page (and website) was made for you.

Table of Contents

How do you catch scabies?

The minute you found out you had the mites you were probably wondering where the hell did these things come from!?

No doubt you’ve racked your brain trying to figure out just who – or where – gave you the gift of these little demons.

  • Can I get scabies from hugging someone?
  • How easy is to to get/catch scabies? Did I just touch some person or surface once and get them?

Finding out how you contracted this menacing bug might prove elusive.

But it’s a good idea to do some detective work.

If you know where they came from you can better avoid getting reinfestation once you’ve cured yourself.

So where are Scabies mites most often found?

13 places you?re most likely to contract scabies

Mites will sit without a host for days waiting for a new one. They can idle for weeks as long as they were left on a surface that is hospitable for them.

You have the highest likelihood of picking up the mites in highly populated places and places that aren’t cleaned frequently.

Crowded spaces could be pretty broad, so let’s look at specific establishments.

#1) The gym

I’m pretty sure this is where I picked them up.. damn local YMCA.

In the gym, you encounter plenty of shared surfaces:

  • weights
  • workout machines
  • mats
  • showers
  • saunas
  • locker rooms

Plenty of risk areas for mites.

Also, many people use the provided towels, which are not always cleaned thoroughly under hot enough temperatures.


  • Avoid going to the gym if you pick up or ever hear of anyone else picking up the mites. You don’t want to spread them and you don’t want them to spread to you.
  • Bring your own towels. bring enough towels so that you can dry off and use them to sit on if you choose to use the sauna or sit down on a bench.

#2) School

Again, lots of people and lots of shared surfaces. Also, kids aren’t known for being very clean.?


  • If you have children or are a student yourself be very aware of any health updates your school is putting out. When cases of scabies break out the administrations in most schools will take some preventative measures and warn their students.
  • Be pretty clean yourself. Carry around sanitizer and use your own towels if you are in the gym often. There’s not much else you can do other than this.

#3) Your workplace

If your work environment has a lot of people then it is a likely target for the spread of mites.

Be mindful of a potential spreading of the mites across your office and request that your coworkers get treated if the mites show up.

#4) Communal housing

When people live together pretty much everything is shared virus wise.?

When you share the same couches, same bathrooms, same kitchen and same everything else pretty much all of your colds and anything else transmittable will spread.

Tips:?At the very first sign of infestation get everyone treated in your living space.

If you hesitate to treat everyone then there is a high chance that your time with the mites will be prolonged.?

#5) Hotels, Motels, and hostels

I read a lot of stories from families who picked up scabies while traveling. It seems to be very common, especially in hostels.?

Tip:?Read reviews of the places you stay at. Often times a Yelp review can save you from staying in a place notorious for having scabies. If a facility isn’t kept clean then it is unlikely to be approved unless it changes management.

#6) Nurseries and daycare

Again, bugs get spread very easily among children. With all of the hands-on play and sharing of clothes, a whole group can become infected before symptoms are even seen.

#7) Traveling hubs

Travel hubs like airports and train stations bring a lot of people together. They all pile into small forms of transportation. Also buses, rental cars, etc. These are another easy place to spread mites.

Bunk beds anyone?

#8) Picking up hitchhikers

I’m not profiling here. I actually really like hitchhiking. BUT, for those living an on the road lifestyle, it is often hard to get treatment so they tend to have the bugs longer.

Moving around like this they also have a higher likelihood of picking up mites in the first place.

#9) Hospitals

Although they appear to be incredibly sterile environments, hospitals stays are actually a very common way to contract scabies. With overworked staff often unable to handle upkeep for each patient to have a clean visit.

For such conventionally clean establishments, hospitals can host their fair share of bugs.

#10) Retirement homes

People enter retirement homes right around the time their?ability for self-care declines. For this reason, mites can easily spread amongst the elderly in a communal living arrangement. Poor folks.

#11) thrift stores

Sifting through a thrift store clothing rack is quite obviously going to expose you to a lot of potential pathogens and bugs.?

I know I view thrift stores in a much different light after having scabies! Who knows what’s lurking on those racks.

Tip:?If you’re buying clothes from a thrift store consider bringing them home and washing them BEFORE you try them on. I know it’s an inconvenience, but so is scabies.

#12) Locker Rooms

You remember that time the whole high school wrestling team got jock itch? Well, it could have just as easily been scabies.?

#13) Homeless Shelters

Homeless people are far less likely than others to find the resources to cure themselves of scabies. So sadly, it spreads amongst them quickly.?Lots of volunteers at these shelters have picked up scabies on the job. Bad cases of crusted scabies can be found here.


If you have or have had scabies it is a really good idea to try to find out where they came from so you can stay away. Also, do everything you can to inform others so they don’t have to go through what we did.

How about you? Do you know where you picked up scabies?

Let us know in the comment section below.

40 thoughts on “How do You Get Scabies in the First Place?”

  1. I am a security officer and I work around people outside and inside a grocery store. I think I have scabies. I haven’t got treated yet. But I am going to soon. Should I be OK to work or not

    1. Sorry for the late response. If you can avoid spreading the mites by covering up, then I would say don’t have make it worse by losing money from not working. But also be very cautious about picking up the mites again while you go through treatment, you can’t be sure from whom or what surface you picked them up in the first place.

    2. I may have got scabies from a rug I pulled out of an apartment complex dumpster or from a thrift store I made a big mistake and tried on a shirt there I surely won’t ever do that again. I also wonder if trying on new clothes at a store could cause it. The itchy bumps about drove me crazy I went to a doctor and got the cream to put on me may need another treatment I’m also going back to dr to get antibiotics just in case I maybe getting an infection from scatching so much. It’s. Horrible thing to have no one else I know has these and I pray my family members don’t get it I don’t live with them but have been around them recently

    3. # 14 Shared Laundry Units
      I moved into an apartment that has shared laundry room. I try to run a cycle of plain water through before my clothes, but sometimes I can’t. I ALWAYS wash on HOT cycle. I don’t think water is hot enough to kill eggs, as I caught scabies after moving in here. Took me months to figure it out.. actually up til a couple of days ago. I’m freaked out but relieved at the same time. Thanks for this forum. All the other sites say it’s only contracted by ‘skin to skin’ contact…’
      NOT… I thought I I was having a serious allergic reaction…WOW.

  2. Anonymous

    I’ve gotten scabies the first time many years ago after traveling around Europe, as well as from the gym years after the first infestation. I recently got scabies and I think I got it from a passenger bus between two different cities. Those suckers are annoying.

    1. That sucks, i’m sorry. You bet, it’s one of the worst things to have 😛

  3. I was just diagnosed with scabies after suffering for a month. I have put permethrin cream on. Am I contagious? Can I spread it from folding sheets? Giving someone a hug? Shaking hands? Standing next to? Donating platelets? Can I spread it by sitting on a couch? Sitting next to someone at a restaurant?
    I am going insane and there are more questions????

  4. I got them from trying on a pair of pants I got at Walmart. People need to be careful of trying on clothes from places like Walmart or Target or big stores–really any store, but more likely in stores that do a lot of volume. My thinking is to put them in the dryer for a good long hot cycle before trying them on–or spray them with disinfectant. I’ve heard of other people having the same thing happen.

    I also think that people with dry skin like myself are less likely to have them spread as fast, and those with not-so-dry skin may have a harder time? Also Ivermectim can be gotten at USA Pharmacy and Canadian pharmacies without a script online, but people should thoroughly check out any of the warnings and allergic reactions people can have.

    I got them in my eye area and ears (hardly any place else except for the crotch from the pants) more recently from scratching at night initially. Many doctors say not but, yes, you can according to other doctors. The solution for eyes is to use petroleum jelly on eyelash areas and corners–don’t use the permethrin cream for the eyes because you can damage your eyes. Doctors also say you can’t get them on your face and scalp. Yes, you can–maybe some people don’t. I have read that you can still itch up to six weeks after treatment, even though you have gotten rid of them, and I’ve experienced that.

    Also, I had it another time, several years ago, gawd yes, and I itched for a long time after the treatment, but then it just stopped, and was permanently gone–I wasn’t reinfected. Then, some months later I was itching again. I went to the dermatologist and he gave me a prescription because he said they can build layers–it doesn’t mean you are infected again, but you may have hit a burrow layer that is still surfacing. I forgot what medication he gave me for it, but I was in the middle of a move and didn’t get to it right away. That telltale itching just went away by itself, and never resurfaced again. I think that a lot of people think they are re-infected when it is clogged burrows and layers of burrows that are still surfacing. They may not be reinfected, but still sloughing off stubborn burrows/layers.

    That former episode with scabies I had, I was dealing with some heavy duty sickness from a rare disease I have, and frankly I didn’t shampoo the carpet, nor did I obsess too much on cleaning and laundry after the treatment. I think you have to be reasonable, but I don’t think you have to obsess. I didn’t wear gloves, and I didn’t bleach or disinfect every little thing constantly, and the treatment worked, and I didn’t reinfect. Maybe it was because I was in bed a lot. And maybe it’s because I have such dry skin.

    Also there are two types of scabies: crusted and regular scabies. The crusted is much more contagious, but involves crusted skin. Also, since I don’t get the erupted skin so much, I recognize scabies by the itching and the little white tiny dots (about like the head of a pin) and tinier black slivers (which are what they use to burrow with) that slough off. If you use a dark washcloth, you can see the white dots, or a white washcloth to see the black slivers. Many sites insist that they are microscopic, and you can’t see them but, yes, you can see those white dots and black slivers.

    Thank you so much for your extensive posting on dealing with this–so sorry for lengthy post, but thought it might be useful. If you had karma, I am sure you are burning it off with this incredible good deed S.

    1. Your information was helpful to me…so sorry you had to deal w them…..its the pits…l have them…n…l feel l got them from a bad dirty cheap motel l spent on night at!!!Have done this cream treatment 4 times now…am so bummed out!!!!Lm 63 and live alone..l have a grandson due in May!!!I pray these Nasty bugs go away asap..

      1. so how it go ,what signs do you have ,how can you tell thats what it is?

  5. P.S. I think children and people 64 and older are more apt to get eye, ear, and scalp (thinner hair) involvement (tender immune systems).

  6. Although it sucks to be infested, it takes 6-7 weeks before they are noticeable for most people. This means, you aren’t going to figure out where you got them, so forget it.

  7. I’m wondering where I picked up scabies. Thinking it might have been a concert since it was packed and we were in close contact with people.

  8. It’s mid summer time now and I seriously believe I got scabies from a county public library. I would go every day for an hour to practice with my typing wpm. And after feeling the intense itching and finding about scabies I noticed the very next time when I went to the library there were a lot more homeless people than usual trying to get away from the scoring heat outside. I firmly believe that’s where I got it from especially from sharing computers with the public.

  9. Barbara Cohn

    Scabies or reaction to new prescription to Wellbutrin. Quite coincidental. Biopsy at dermatologist inconclusive. Treated with 5% permethrin, 6 days of steroids, and still itchy. Now I should take invermectin? I have never known anyone with scabies. I am 68, an active hiker, work in a clinical lab, occasionally hit the YMCA, and am I good health. The itching, initially subtle, started a few days after I started the wellbutrin. (For depression) my husband and I slept in the same bed at a beach house in August, and he has no symptoms. I find this very difficult to believe. Help!?

    1. I know several people on Wellbutrin. My mother took it too. Never heard of anyone getting this kind of reaction. I have no idea where I got it either. Haven’t tried on any clothes. I’m married no other bed partners but he doesn’t have it. Havent had any contact with anyone with scabies.
      So I have let go of trying to figure that out!! I didn’t take it seriously until one day it all came together. I had a real meltdown. My sister gave me colloidal silver mixed with coconut oil. I think k it is one tablespoon of cs and 2 ml of the oil. In cotton pads I treated the only area I have them – my back which is a very unusual place to get it. I have no symptoms any where else. Immediately the bumps stopped looking angry – the itching stopped. So I thought great it’s over but it wasn’t and after a couple of weeks it was really bad. Suphur soap and sulphur ointment ( both from Ralph’s in the section of ethnic soaps and creams. ) white vinegar on my scalp No itching now on scalp but I lost half the volume of my hair. It’s thin and lifeless. Do it all. White vinegar on scalp and bumps. , sulphur soap and sulphur ointment, colloidal silver and coconut oil. But the best I think has been Tea Tree Oil. I believe I’m almost bump free. Maybe one new one today. Attacked it with Tea Tree Oil. Also sulphur soap when wsshing hands. ( wash them a lot ) But in the shower use Dr Bronners Peppermint soap an exfoliating glove or brush. But after shower them. Bleach your bathroom floor. Wash bedding and clothing every day. Change your clothes often. Vacuum every day. Just keep attacking it and eventually they will go!

  10. Phyllis Mason

    Can you get Scabies from deer??

  11. I think I may have them.. but I haven’t left my house much in months and certainly haven’t come into close skin contact with anyone besides my baby and fianc?… and I’m the only one with symptoms…

    They are definitely from a bug. And itchy as hell. And consistent with either fleas, bed bugs, or scabies.. based on pictures and their location and number. but I sleep with my daughter and I feel like if they were bed bugs or fleas everyone in the house would be afflicted..

  12. Sheryle Lakey

    I got mine from a dog where I used to live they say you can’t get them from animals I say wrong you can just like you can get head lice from chickens you can get scabies from animals I lived in a trailer right by the Dog Kennel, the Dog never went in the house the dog never got bathed and he got out one day and I grabbed him and I held him awaiting the leash. Big mistake!

    1. Belladonna

      I agree with you Sherley Lakey, I agree 100 per cent! I am absolutely positive I got the filphy mites from the stables I used to ride horses! There were plenty of dogs, stray cats, and some of the horses probably were not ok health wise! And yes, humans can get the disgusting mites from animals! It annoys me to no end that many websites consider scabies a Sexualy Transmissible Disease… Let me tell you, having sex is one among HUNDREDSof ways to be infected by these disgusting parasites!

  13. OMG!!!I have scabies!!!I’m alone…l think l got them either from…not washing my clothes like an idiot from thrift stores….or a very seedy motel l spent one nite at…
    I’m miserable…have been treated twice..n used cream..four time….mites are worse!!!help…frustrated…

  14. I got some tea tree oil….have any if you used it?I used it the other day….it seemed to raise up the infected area and leave many tiny slivers of mites..?…raised up…and many white dots surfaced…is this safe to use???Thanks….l hate these things!!!???

    1. you are killing them. pine tar soap will kill them also. I wash off ever now and again with pine tar soap just “in case” I never want to go through the scare again. I though I can contracted something very serious.

  15. A fellow bus driver says he contracted scabies from a dog who had mange..
    He said he had had treatment once.. is this enough?… and how did it come from a stray dog

  16. I got a new kitten in December. When I took her to vet, found out she had mites. I also have 2 older cats. Neither of my older cats were infected so the kitty was the only one treated. Long story short, it’s now April . I have turned into the buffet at the no-tell-mite-motel. All three cats have mites and I have a raging case of scabies. Have gone through 8 tubes of cream. Cats are on their 3 round of treatment,saran wrapped my bed(now just ordering a new one). Went back to doc today. Prescribed oral stuff and find out from pharmacist that it has to be specially ordered through health Canada. I’ve done so much laundry my bill has doubled and to make it all worse? I am the only one in household the little buggers want to feast on. This sucks sucks sucks.

  17. My child’s school has an outbreak, more than 1 student has scabies. Is it safe for my child to attend school?

  18. I just got diagnosed with scabies yesterday. Did the permethrin cream and no results yet as it?s only been 16 hours. I noticed bumps 1.5 weeks ago and thought it was poison ivy. Now I have to get my cat tested and precautionary treatment because my doctor and vet said they can spread human to pet . I feel disgusting because I?m so clean. I wish I knew where I picked it up because I haven?t had close contact with anyone in over 7 weeks. Nobody has even been to my house and my cat doesn?t leave the apartment . I just want to cry

  19. Nancy L Nunes

    My mother is 92 and never leaves home except to go to church and she is infested with them she the doctor but is having
    a hard time with this my heart goes out to her

  20. Was it possible i got my scabies from my hair salon? He does not wash his towels in hot water.But if he dried them on high….wouldn’t that have killed them? Also,what about a nail salon? Gee,I am gonna be afraid of everything after this horrible experience!

  21. I have just recovered from having scabies , my second time , first time being at boarding school when I was a child……….a terrible experience, after applying Ascabiol diluted with 50 % water then applying it three times…on day 1 ,3 and 7, I eventually got it under control. You have to use a paint brush and paint your whole body from neck to toe. I think
    I contracted it from staying in a cheap hotel. I am now very aware of contact with strange people and using shared towels etc

  22. One of my friends took me home yesterday from a drs visit. It looks like he has a real severe case of scabies. And he did confess to me that he does have them. All I did was sit in his car for 25mins at most. He and I didn’t hug or anything. Not even a handshake. But I cant stop worrying that I have them now. I’ve showered so many times and I am cleaning everything. I’m going to see my dr about it in two days just in case because I am so terrified. Is my fear legit? Could that 25 minute car ride really have given me scabies? Or is it all in my head? I honestly want to know if I’m worrying about something I shouldn’t or if my fear is legit.

  23. I have got Scabies 1 time from straw bails and 6 times from the back of my property where there is high grass and dead tree limbs. No human contact ever any of the times.

    Anyone studying these things that wants proof come visit my property, you will get them in nature, they are living just fine without a human host year round.
    Only thing I have noticed is in the summer they move faster and it is a lot easier to get them just brushing up next to a weed, in the winter I had to be clearing off dead wood when I got them, but below freezing I have never got them working in that area so it takes below freezing temps to stop them from moving..

  24. I was horrified last week when thay came from nowhere. I felt dirty, but that’s not the case. I was completely confused what’s going on with me, I had to send pictures to my doctor who said it could be chicken pox or shingles, then it was have i changed my diet or soap or washing powder, And all it was was i spent half hour in a dirty shop that hadn’t been cleaned since lockdown, took me a week to get there

  25. I am recovering from a bad case of scabies. I believe I contracted them from a decaying wooden deck which I sat on all last summer. I hadn’t gone anywhere but home as I had new puppies and had to feed them every 2 hours. I went out and sat on the deck throughout the day to relax. I broke out with a rash on my arms and legs and little blisters on my knees. It went downhill from there. Dr said it was eczema. But it never got better. I’m 65 years old. I took ivermectin tablet 2 days ago and the itching is almost gone. I have permanent scarring on my legs and arms. This has been a horrible experience. I’m praying it goes completely away.

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