Mange is a skin condition that’s caused by mites to animals. The human version of this condition is called scabies. Mites are tiny parasites that feed and live on or under your skin. For the purpose of this article we will refer to both as mange, as animal mites may cause irritation on human skin without causing scabies. Mange can itch and appear as red bumps or blisters.
Most people get scabies from direct, skin-to-skin contact. Less often, people pick up mites from infested items such as bedding, clothes, and furniture. More than 100 million people throughout the world get scabies each year. Animal mites (mange) do not typically infest humans.
Most cases of mange and scabies affect only your skin and are treatable. You should seek immediate medical treatment if you suspect you have the condition.
The disease in animals is caused by S. scabiei variants, which are genetically distinct from scabies in humans. These animal variants cannot reproduce on the human host and, therefore, are only able to cause minor, self-limited infestation.
Mange and scabies are highly contagious and may make you susceptible to a secondary infection.
Mange can cause severe itching, redness, and a rash. If an infestation occurs, papules may present within
Symptoms of mange include:
- severe itching, particularly at night
- skin rash, sometimes called “scabies rash”
- raised, skin-colored or grayish-white tracts, bumps, or blisters on the surface of the skin, caused from burrows created by female mites
Mange is most likely to affect areas of the body with skin folds. These include:
- finger webbing
- genital area
- breasts, especially where the skin folds
- inner elbows, wrists, and knees
- bottom of the feet
- shoulder blades
Children, older adults, and the immunocompromised may also be affected by mange in areas that include:
- palms of the hand
- soles of the feet
Mange can look similar to other conditions. Some of these include:
You may develop a bacterial infection on your skin from these bites. This occurs if the mites burrow in your skin or if you break the skin’s barrier from scratching.
You should see a doctor if you show any symptoms of mange.
Human mange, or scabies, appears as a skin rash. It may affect your fingers and toes first. It can also begin to occur around your genitals, armpits, or other areas of your body. The rash can then spread to the rest of your body.
The first sign of scabies on your skin may be itching or lines on your skin that begin with a dot. This happens when mites lay eggs in your skin. The rash will then spread, and more small blisters or bumps will appear that are red or brown, depending on your skin tone. In rare instances, the rash be crusty or contain pus. This indicates a type of bacterial variant.
Humans can get scabies or other types of mange from direct contact with mites that cause the condition. Not all mites cause mange. Some may get onto your skin and cause a temporary allergic reaction that doesn’t need further treatment.
Human scabies is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei var. Hominis. These mites burrow into the top layer of the skin and lay eggs.
Mange is frequently found in wild and domestic animals. Humans do not contract mange from animals because different mites cause animal mange. Animal mites may, however, cause minor irritation in humans.
If you encounter an animal with mange, you may have a very limited interaction with a type of mite that could irritate your skin briefly, but it cannot live on your body, so the symptoms will be mild and short. Mites that can burrow and live on humans only spread from person to person.
Red, irritated skin and hair loss are symptoms of mange in animals. Animals will also scratch the infested areas, could cause worsening symptoms as well as infection. Animals need to be treated by a veterinarian and isolated during treatment to avoid spreading mange to other animals.
Mites that cause scabies and mange can spread easily. Physical contact and sharing clothes or bed linens with someone who has mange can cause the infection. Mites can live for days on animals or textiles. You may even get scabies or another form of mange from sexual contact. Because it spreads quickly, those living with someone with mange should get treatment. You may be at increased risk for mange if you:
See a doctor right away if you suspect you have scabies or an animal mite infestation. The doctor will look at your skin and try to see signs of mite infestation, such as a burrow.
It’s possible that your doctor will locate a mite or take a sample of your skin from a suspected affected area. Your doctor may view it through a microscope for a complete diagnosis.
A doctor may not find the mites on your skin even if you have mange. Or you may only have as few as 10 to 15 mites on your skin. In that case, they will make the diagnosis based on your physical symptoms.
A variety of methods can treat mange. Most need a doctor’s prescription.
The following treatments kill scabies:
- Scabicides. These are prescription medications that kill scabies mites and their eggs.
- Deep cleaning. Clean the linens and clothing in your house. Do this by machine-washing items with hot water (at least
75 degrees C) and drying them in the dryer with hot air, dry cleaning them, or setting them in a plastic bag for a few days.
The following treatments can help calm the skin and reduce itch or infection, but they don’t kill the scabies.
- Soak. Soaking in cool water or applying a cool compress should sooth the affected areas.
- Calamine lotion. Applied to the skin, calamine lotion may also help soothe itchy or irritated skin.
- OTC antihistamines. If you’re having an allergic reaction to mange, over-the-counter antihistamines may help reduce symptoms.
- Antibiotics. Scratching the affected areas can cause the skin to open. This leaves you susceptible to a secondary bacterial infection. A doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if you develop a secondary infection.
Additionally, your doctor may recommend treating your family or other members of your household simultaneously, even if they don’t show signs of mange.
Animal or human mites are highly contagious. It only takes 20 minutes of close contact to transmit mites from person to person. Mites can live on clothes, furniture, or other places in the environment for 2 to 3 days without a human host.
The best ways to avoid the spread of mange from person to person include:
- getting medication for symptoms and isolating for the first 24 hours of treatment
- treating those who have had close contact with a symptomatic person
- cleaning and disinfecting areas where the symptomatic person lives or spends time
- cleaning clothes that a symptomatic person has worn or touched in the last 3 days by washing them in hot water and drying them in hot air or by dry cleaning
- putting items that cannot be washed in a sealed bag for 3 days
- discouraging small children from sucking their hands
- isolation, if recommended by a doctor
While mange in animals cannot infest humans, you can prevent the spread of mange between animals or mild human symptoms by:
- washing your hands after touching or treating animals
- treating symptomatic animals for mange and isolating them while they are treated
- cleaning the infected animal’s living environment
Mange can clear up quickly with the right medical treatments. Mange generally only results in itching and a rash. If left untreated it could lead to secondary infections.
You may not see the signs of mange until weeks after the mites infest your skin. As soon as you see signs of mange, contact your doctor immediately.
If you live or have contact with an animal with mange, make sure to treat yourself and the animal for mites, as well as members of your household, your pets, and others with whom you have regular physical contact.