Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by Sarcoptes scabies, a tiny mite. A scabies rash can look similar to rashes caused by other conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema.

Scabies is a skin condition caused by Sarcoptes scabies, a microscopic, burrowing mite.

The main symptom of scabies is a rash that causes intense and uncontrollable itching, especially at night. The rash is typically made of blisters or pimple-like bumps. You may also see tiny lines or tracks on the skin, which are where the mites have burrowed.

The rash may look different depending on your skin type. On light skin, inflammation caused by scabies may look red, while on dark skin, it may look greyish. On dark skin, scabies infection may also appear as tiny nodules that are made up of inflammatory cells (granulomas).

Scabies rashes may develop anywhere on the body, but it’s more common on certain areas in adults, such as:

  • the wrists and hands
  • the elbows
  • around the waistband
  • the armpits
  • the skin around the nipples
  • on the vulva
  • on the penis and scrotum
  • on the buttocks

In babies and young children, scabies are often seen on the entire body. This can include the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

Anyone can get scabies. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the condition is usually spread by skin-to-skin contact. While it’s less common, scabies can also spread through shared items like towels, bedding, and mattresses.

People with a weakened immune system are at increased risk for a severe form known as crusted scabies. Crusted scabies result in visibly thickened skin, and it’s more contagious than other types.


Effective prescription treatments that kill scabies, mites, and eggs are available. They usually consist of a cream or lotion that you apply to your body.

Your doctor may recommend every household member be treated, whether or not they show symptoms.

After treatment, it can take several more weeks for the itching to stop. Remedies to help relieve itching include using a cool compress, taking antihistamines, and applying calamine lotion.

Learn more about treatment for scabies.

Psoriasis is a long-term autoimmune condition of the skin. It causes your body’s immune system to attack itself, which leads to the rapid buildup of skin cells. This buildup of cells causes scaling on the skin’s surface.

Psoriasis isn’t contagious. Touching a psoriasis rash on another person won’t cause you to develop the condition.

There are several types of psoriasis, but the most common type is plaque psoriasis. It affects 80–90% of people with psoriasis. This type causes scaly, raised patches to form on your skin.

Lesions may form anywhere on your body, but they’re most common in these areas:

  • the elbows
  • the knees
  • the scalp
  • the lower back

On light skin, the patches appear pink or red in color with a silvery white scale. On dark skin, patches may be harder to see when they first develop. By the time they can be seen, they’re often thicker, more silvery, and itchy. They may also look dark or purple in color.

Other symptoms may include:


Psoriasis cannot be cured, but treatments are aimed at reducing symptoms and improving the appearance of your skin. Depending on the type and severity of your psoriasis, different treatments may be necessary.

Your doctor may recommend treatments such as:

Scabies vs. psoriasis

At first glance, psoriasis and scabies can easily be mistaken for one another. If you take a closer look, however, there are clear differences.

lesions may or may not itchlesions are usually intensely itchy
lesions tend to appear in patcheslesions tend to appear as burrowing trails on the skin
lesions cause skin flaking and scalingrash typically doesn’t flake and scale
autoimmune diseasecaused by a mite infestation
not contagiouscontagious through direct skin contact

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a common skin condition that causes itchy rashes and irritation.

Symptoms of eczema include:

  • severe itch that comes and goes
  • scaly patches
  • thickened skin
  • a rash that may appear anywhere on your body

On light skin, the rash usually looks red. On dark skin, the rash may be harder to see. It may look purplish-brown or gray.

The cause of eczema is not fully known. The condition is linked to your immune system, which can overreact to certain triggers. Eczema is not contagious.


Eczema is often treated with:

  • gentle skin care
  • limiting contact with triggers
  • topical medications, such as corticosteroids, crisaborole (Eucrisa), or tacrolimus (Protopic)
  • phototherapy (light therapy)

If your eczema is severe, your doctor may recommend additional treatments such as:

  • immunomodulators, which slow your immune response
  • JAK inhibitors, which reduce over-reactivity in your immune system
  • injection medications called biologics, which can help lower inflammation
  • bleach baths

There are two types of contact dermatitis, but the reactions they cause can look similar. Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by skin contact with an irritating substance, while allergic contact dermatitis is caused by skin contact with something you’re allergic to.

Contact dermatitis can cause a rash to appear on and around the skin exposed to the trigger substance. Early symptoms can include:

  • painful skin
  • swelling
  • oozing
  • itching
  • crusting
  • blisters or pimple-like bumps

Later, the area may start to look scaly, crusty, and redder or darker in color.


You can help prevent contact dermatitis by limiting contact with irritants, for example, by wearing rubber gloves when washing dishes.

If you have allergic contact dermatitis, you’ll want to avoid contact with substances that trigger a reaction. Some common trigger substances include perfumes, dyes, and skin care ingredients.

Your doctor may recommend treatments such as:

  • topical corticosteroids
  • antihistamines to reduce itching
  • immunomodulators to slow your immune response

Folliculitis happens when you have an infection in your hair follicles. It causes an acne-like rash that may be itchy or painful. The infection may be more likely to appear on areas where you shave, wear tight clothing, or have skin folds.

This condition is fairly common. Most types of folliculitis are not easily spread between people, though it is possible in some cases.


Mild cases of folliculitis often heal on their own with at-home care. However, if your symptoms are severe or persist over time, your doctor may recommend treatment. Treatments differ depending on the underlying cause of the infection. They include:

Papular urticaria is an itchy rash that typically affects children. They are caused by an allergic reaction, often triggered by insect bites.

Symptoms include:

  • itching
  • red bumps that can be up to 2 cm (0.8 inches) wide
  • blisters
  • swelling in areas such as the face, neck, or hands

Swelling on the face, neck, or limbs can sometimes indicate a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency.


Treatment for papular urticaria is focused on managing symptoms such as itching and swelling. Your doctor may recommend options such as:

  • topical antiseptics to reduce the risk of infection
  • oral antihistamines
  • topical corticosteroids

If you think someone may be having a serious allergic reaction, get emergency medical help right away.

Over time, you may stop having episodes of papular urticaria as your body adjusts to the substance that’s causing the reaction.

According to DermNet, the following skin conditions can also be mistaken for scabies:

  • Infantile acropustulosis: This rash usually appears on babies, on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands.
  • Prurigo: This refers to a rash of very itchy small bumps. It can have a range of different causes.
  • Blistering skin disorders: Also known as bullous skin disorders, they have many possible causes.

If you notice skin changes that don’t go away with at-home care, it’s best to see your doctor.

Sometimes, a rash can indicate a more serious medical condition. Seek emergency medical care if you have a rash that’s painful, blistering covering your entire body, or quickly spreads.

If you have a rash that’s combined with a fever or other signs of infection, get emergency medical help. Signs of infection can include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • nausea
  • increased pain
  • swelling or warmth around the rash
  • yellow or green fluid coming from the rash
  • a red streak coming from the rash

Serious allergic reactions can also cause a rash. If you notice signs of a serious allergic reaction, such as swelling of the face, mouth, or throat, or difficulty breathing, seek emergency care right away.

Knowing how to identify scabies and other rashes will help you recognize the early symptoms and determine the best course of treatment. Speak with your doctor to learn more about your options.