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Scabies is a skin condition caused by human mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. The most common symptoms include a pimple-like rash and severe itching that gets worse at night. Areas of affected skin may be thicker as well.

Typically, scabies spreads via direct skin-to-skin contact. It can also spread through contaminated objects and furniture, including mattresses.

Because scabies mites aren’t visible, it can be difficult to know if they’re on your mattress. Read on to learn how long scabies can live, plus ways to get rid of them.

Scabies mites can live for up to 2 to 3 days when not on a human. This means they can survive for this long on a mattress and other surfaces.

Normally, removing scabies mites from surfaces involves machine washing on the hot cycle and drying. This is used for things like bedding, towels, and clothing.

For mattresses and other items that can’t be put in the washing machine, removing scabies requires a different approach.

Here are several methods for getting rid of scabies from a mattress:

Vacuuming

One way to clean your mattress is to vacuum it. Make sure to clean the sides and seams as well.

When you’re done vacuuming, throw the vacuum bag in the garbage. This will ensure the scabies mites don’t infest other parts of your home.

Steam cleaning

The heat from a steam cleaner will kill scabies mites. To clean your mattress, use high-temperature steam that’s at least 140°F (60°C).

Permethrin spray

Permethrin spray is a liquid solution that’s used to disinfect surfaces that can’t be washed. Permethrin is an insecticide that’s used to kill scabies mites.

If you decide to use permethrin spray, be sure to follow the directions. In general, you might need to avoid the room for about 30 minutes. You might also need to avoid using the mattress for at least 12 hours.

Plastic cover

A plastic cover will prevent physical contact between people and the scabies. Without human contact, the scabies there should die in 2 to 3 days.

Also, make sure the plastic cover properly fits your bed. You can buy plastic mattress protectors online or at big-box stores like Target or Walmart.

Replacing your mattress

If you’re unable to fully remove scabies from a mattress, consider replacing it. This option is typically used in the worst-case scenario.

Because scabies can contaminate many parts of the home, you’ll need to clean other surfaces too. In addition to your mattress, consider cleaning other furniture and upholstery, such as:

  • couches
  • chairs
  • car seats
  • carpets and rugs

You may also want to wash and clean other textiles, including:

  • clothing
  • pillows
  • bedding
  • blankets
  • towels

If you didn’t use an object for over 7 days before starting treatment, cleaning this typically isn’t necessary, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

If it’s your first time having scabies, it can take 4 to 8 weeks to develop symptoms after exposure. But if you’ve had scabies before, the symptoms can appear in just 1 to 4 days.

See a doctor as soon as you notice scabies bites. The earlier you get treatment, the sooner you can feel better and avoid spreading scabies to other people.

You might still have rashes and itching for 2 to 4 weeks, even with proper treatment. This could be due to various reasons, including scabies mite reinfestation or a skin reaction to the medication.

However, if the itching continues for longer than 4 weeks, see your doctor. About 5 percent of people with scabies need a second round of treatment. In severe cases, you might need weekly treatments.

The length of time you have scabies symptoms also depends on the type. Common scabies, also known as typical scabies, involves fewer mites on the skin and is easier to treat.

Crusted scabies, also called Norwegian scabies, is more severe and harder to treat. For example, in a 2014 case report, a man had crusted scabies for 11 years even with treatment.

In general, scabies mites can live for 2 to 3 days on a mattress and other inanimate items. You can remove them from these objects with a vacuum or kill them with a steam cleaner’s high-temperature steam.

Other options include a permethrin spray or plastic mattress cover, which will prevent the mites from having contact with humans. If you can’t get rid of the scabies mites, you may need to replace the mattress.

Scabies mites can live for 1 to 2 months on a human. They’ll keep growing and laying eggs until you get proper treatment and decontaminate your home.