Mange is a term for skin conditions caused by a species of mites in certain animals, such as dogs and cats. When these mites affect people, it is known as scabies.

Mites are microscopic, eight-legged parasites that can live on animals, including dogs, cats, and humans. To lay their eggs, they either burrow into the skin or hair follicles.

Various types of mites affect different species, including humans, in different ways.

In this article, we look at the distinctions between mange and scabies in people and other animals. We also describe the symptoms, treatments, and prevention of mite infestations in humans.

Mange is a skin condition caused by mites. It typically affects dogs, but some forms can also affect humans.

The most common type of mange in dogs is sarcoptic mange, also called canine scabies.

Humans can catch sarcoptic mange from dogs, but the mites involved cannot complete their life cycle in human skin. As a result, the issue can cause some skin irritation in humans, but it does not last long.

After contact with an affected animal, a person may develop itchy welts like mosquito bites, which may be reddish. They should fade shortly. In the meantime, a cortisone cream can reduce the inflammation and itching.

The other type of mange that dogs contract, demodectic mange, is fairly rare and more serious. A dog may develop it if they have compromised immunity. Experts do not believe that this form is contagious for other animals, including humans.

If a person suspects that their dog has sarcoptic mange, they should keep the dog off shared furniture, wash the dog’s bedding, and avoid very close contact.

Sarcoptic mites of the subspecies Sarcoptes scabiei var. canis cause mange in dogs. However, a different subspecies, Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, causes scabies in humans.

Scabies can spread quickly from person to person through physical contact.

If a person gets mange from an animal, the issue is usually short-lived.

Mites from animals typically cause an allergic reaction in human skin. This leads to irritation, intense itching. The affected skin may be reddish in people with lighter skin tones.

The itchiness of mange can last several days, but a person does not need treatment to get rid of the mites. A cream that contains cortisone can help ease the symptoms while they last.

Human scabies, on the other hand, does require treatment. It is common throughout the world and more problematic in areas that are overcrowded, have poor sanitation, or both.

If a person has come into contact with human scabies mites for the first time, the symptoms may not appear for up to 8 weeks. However, the mites can spread to others, even when no symptoms are present.

A person who has had scabies before may experience the symptoms of a new infestation in as few as 1–4 days.

Symptoms of scabies in humans include:

  • intense itching, which can be more severe at night
  • a rash, possibly of small blisters, between the fingers
  • small tracks of blisters or bumps, called burrow lines, where the mites have traveled

The symptoms may be more apparent in skin folds, such as those of the fingers, palms, buttocks, beneath the breast, and in the inner knee and elbow.

If a person gets mange from an animal, the symptoms should disappear after a few days without treatment. However, the animal needs medical attention.

For scabies, a person needs to use medication to kill the mites and destroy their eggs. These medicines are called scabicides, and they come as creams and lotions.

Effective scabicides are not available over-the-counter; a person needs a prescription. Common options include:

  • permethrin cream 5% (Elimite)
  • Lindane lotion
  • crotamiton (Eurax)
  • ivermectin (Stromectol)

Once a person has the medication, they should:

  • Clean their skin, by showering or bathing.
  • Apply the lotion to the entire body up to the neck, for maximum effectiveness.
  • In children and infants, also use the lotion on the scalp.
  • Leave it on for as long as the instructions recommend.
  • Afterward, change into clean clothing

Sexual partners and anyone else in close contact with someone who has scabies should also get tested and possibly treated — scabies is highly contagious.

Everyone should have treatment at the same time to prevent a reinfestation.

If any of the above medications are not appropriate or effective, a doctor can prescribe others, such as sulfur compounded in petrolatum.

In addition to using a prescription scabicide, a person can often relieve the itching and any pain by:

  • soaking the skin in cool water or applying a wet washcloth
  • using a soothing skin cream, such as calamine lotion
  • taking antihistamines

To keep the mites from spreading and to prevent a reinfestation, wash all clothes, towels, and bedclothes with hot water and soap. Then put them in the dryer on a hot cycle or have them dry cleaned.

Do so around 3 days before using the scabicide treatment. This is because the mites cannot survive for more than 3 days when they are not on a person’s skin.

Place clothes or bedding that cannot be washed in a sealed plastic bag for at least 72 hours, though the longer, the better.

Scabies is highly contagious. Symptoms can take up to 2 months to appear after the infestation, and the mites can spread to others before the person experiences any symptoms.

People can treat scabies with medicated creams called scabicides. Effective scabicides are only available by prescription. They kill the mites and their eggs.

Three days before using the treatment, a person should wash and dry or bag all of their clothes, towels, and bedclothes.

After the treatment, the itching can persist for some weeks before going away completely.