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How to Determine if You Have Scabies or Dermatitis



When it comes to skin conditions, it can sometimes be challenging to differentiate between various ailments. Two common skin conditions that often cause confusion are scabies and dermatitis. While both conditions can cause itching and discomfort, they have different causes and require different treatments. In this article, we will explore the key differences between scabies and dermatitis, as well as provide insights on how to identify and manage each condition.

Understanding Scabies

Scabies is a highly contagious skin infestation caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. These microscopic mites burrow into the skin, laying eggs and causing an allergic reaction. Scabies is typically transmitted through close personal contact, such as prolonged skin-to-skin contact or sharing bedding and clothing with an infected individual.

Common Symptoms of Scabies

  • Intense itching, especially at night
  • Rash with small, red bumps or blisters
  • Thin, irregular burrow tracks on the skin
  • Sores or crusts caused by scratching

If you suspect you have scabies, it is essential to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis. A healthcare professional will typically perform a physical examination and may take a skin scraping to examine under a microscope for the presence of mites, eggs, or fecal matter.

Understanding Dermatitis

Dermatitis, on the other hand, refers to inflammation of the skin that can have various causes. It is not contagious and can occur due to allergies, irritants, or underlying medical conditions. The most common types of dermatitis include atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Common Symptoms of Dermatitis

  • Redness and swelling of the skin
  • Itching or a burning sensation
  • Dry, scaly, or flaky skin
  • Blisters or oozing sores in severe cases

Diagnosing dermatitis often involves a thorough examination of the affected area and a discussion of the patient’s medical history. In some cases, a patch test may be conducted to identify specific allergens or irritants that trigger the condition.

Differentiating Scabies from Dermatitis

While scabies and dermatitis can share similar symptoms, there are key differences that can help distinguish between the two conditions.


Scabies is caused by a mite infestation, while dermatitis can be triggered by various factors such as allergies, irritants, or underlying medical conditions.


Scabies is highly contagious and can spread through close personal contact or sharing personal items. Dermatitis, on the other hand, is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from person to person.


Scabies often presents as a rash with small, red bumps or blisters, accompanied by burrow tracks on the skin. Dermatitis can manifest as red, swollen skin with or without blisters, depending on the type of dermatitis.


Scabies commonly affects areas such as the wrists, elbows, armpits, genitals, and the webbing between the fingers. Dermatitis can occur on any part of the body, depending on the cause and type of dermatitis.

Managing Scabies and Dermatitis

Once diagnosed, both scabies and dermatitis can be effectively managed with appropriate treatments. It is crucial to follow the advice of a healthcare professional to ensure proper care and prevent further complications.

Treating Scabies

Scabies is typically treated with prescription medications, such as topical creams or oral medications, that kill the mites and their eggs. It is essential to treat all household members and close contacts to prevent reinfestation. Additionally, washing and drying all bedding, clothing, and personal items on high heat can help eliminate any mites or eggs.

Treating Dermatitis

The treatment of dermatitis depends on the underlying cause and type of dermatitis. It may involve the use of topical corticosteroids, antihistamines, or moisturizers to relieve symptoms and reduce inflammation. Avoiding known triggers, such as certain allergens or irritants, is also crucial in managing dermatitis.


1. Can scabies be mistaken for dermatitis?

Yes, scabies can sometimes be mistaken for dermatitis due to the similarity in symptoms, such as itching and skin rash. However, a proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is necessary to differentiate between the two conditions.

2. Can dermatitis be contagious?

No, dermatitis is not contagious. It is a non-infectious condition that occurs due to various factors, including allergies, irritants, or underlying medical conditions.

3. Can scabies go away on its own?

No, scabies will not go away on its own. It requires medical treatment to eliminate the mites and relieve symptoms. Without treatment, scabies can persist and spread to others.

4. Can dermatitis be cured completely?

While dermatitis cannot be completely cured, it can be effectively managed with appropriate treatments and lifestyle changes. By identifying and avoiding triggers, individuals can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups.

5. Can scabies and dermatitis occur simultaneously?

Yes, it is possible for scabies and dermatitis to occur simultaneously. In some cases, the intense itching caused by scabies infestation can lead to secondary dermatitis. It is important to seek medical attention to address both conditions appropriately.


Scabies and dermatitis are two distinct skin conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as itching and skin rash. However, understanding the differences between the two is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. Scabies is a contagious infestation caused by mites, while dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin due to various factors. By seeking medical attention and following the recommended treatments, individuals can effectively manage these conditions and alleviate discomfort. Remember, if you suspect you have scabies or dermatitis, consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

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