Skin Parasites

Skin parasites (PAIR-uh-sites) are tiny organisms that invade the skin, often causing irritation and itching.


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Pediculus humanus capitis

Phthirus pubis

Pubic lice

Sarcoptes scabiel


What Are Skin Parasites?

Parasites live off other living things (including people), often living, feeding, and reproducing on them. Some parasites thrive on human blood and cannot live long without it. 'When these parasites latch onto someone's skin, they may lay their eggs there. Before long, that person could become the host (an organism that provides another organism, such as a parasite or virus, with a place to live and grow) for hundreds or more of the parasites.

This image shows a magnification of one of the eggs laid by head lice. These eggs, called "nits," are visible to the naked eye. The term "nit-pick," which means to be concerned with insignificant details, derives from the process of taking the tiny eggs out of the hair by hand, a method used for centuries before more effective treatment was widely available. Custom Medical Stock Photo, Inc.
This image shows a magnification of one of the eggs laid by head lice. These eggs, called "nits," are visible to the naked eye. The term "nit-pick," which means to be concerned with insignificant details, derives from the process of taking the tiny eggs out of the hair by hand, a method used for centuries before more effective treatment was widely available.
Custom Medical Stock Photo, Inc.

Skin parasites are found worldwide and infest large numbers of people. For example, as many as 6 to 12 million people worldwide contract head lice every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Head lice most often affect children in school and daycare settings.

What Are Some Common Skin Parasites?

There are many parasites that infest human skin, but lice, scabies (SKAY-beez), and chiggers are among the most common.

Head lice

Also known as Pediculus humanus capitis (peh-DIH-kyoolus HYOO-mah-nus KAH-pih-tis), head lice are six-legged parasites with tiny claws that cling to hairs. They are found on the scalp, neck, and behind the ears. Lice lay visible, whitish eggs called nits. In about 7 days, the nits hatch into young called nymphs (NIMFS). Nymphs grow up fast, and in just 1 week they mature into adult lice that must feed on blood to stay alive. Head lice may not cause any symptoms immediately, but as with other insect bites the body reacts to the invaders, leading to itching and sores from scratching.

Pubic lice

Pubic lice, or Phthirus pubis (THEER-us PYOO-bus), invade the pubic hair and sometimes other body hair such as beards, eyebrows, eyelashes, and armpit hair. They often are called "crabs" because of their crab-like appearance. Pubic lice cause intense itching, especially at night, when they feed by burying their heads into hair follicles * . The nits or adult lice can be seen on pubic hairs or surrounding skin.


Microscopic Sarcoptes scabiei (sar-KOP-teez SKAY-be-eye) mites cause an infestation called scabies. The mites work their way under the top layer of skin and lay their eggs. Most people are not even aware of the intruders until intense itching begins 2 to 6 weeks later. Red, pimple-like bumps appear on the skin, and there may be wavy lines on the skin tracing the mites' paths, especially in the webbing between the fingers and in the skin folds at the back of the knees and the inside of the elbows.

* hair follicles (FAH-lih-kulz) are the skin structures from hair develops and grows.

* hives are swollen, itchy patches on the skin.


Chiggers are mites that tend to live in weeds, tall grass, or wooded areas. The chigger larvae (LAR-vee, immature mites) feed on a variety of animals, including humans. The larvae crawl onto the skin of passersby and can use their tiny claws to grab onto human hair. They then attach to the skin, usually at the ankles or waist or in skin folds, with hooked mouthparts and feed on skin cells. Unlike lice and scabies, chiggers only feed on their host for a couple of days, then let go and fall off. Chigger bites can cause a red bump that continues to grow in size, a skin rash, hives * , and severe itchiness. Sometimes the larvae are visible in the center of the bump.

How Are Skin Parasites Spread?

Despite what many believe, people do not get skin parasites because of poor hygiene. Instead, skin parasites tend to spread in situations where they can walk or fall from one person to another (or in the case of chiggers, from vegetation to human skin). The parasites often require relatively prolonged and close contact to move between people, and they spread most easily in crowded conditions, from sharing personal items, and from skin-to-skin contact.

Head lice in particular fall easily onto their next victims in close quarters. They also can infest hairbrushes, barrettes, hats, and sometimes clothes or bed linens. If other people use these items, they can become infested as well. Pubic lice spread mostly through sexual contact, but people also can get them from bed linens and clothes.

Scabies spreads quickly in crowded living conditions or in places with lots of skin-to-skin contact (such as daycare centers and nursing homes). Like lice, scabies can be passed through sexual contact and by sharing clothes, towels, and bed linens.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors often diagnose skin parasite infestations just by spotting the parasites, their eggs, larvae, or characteristic red bumps on the skin. With scabies, a skin scraping might be taken to check for mites, eggs, and mite feces (FEE-seez, or bowel movements). However, this test is not always accurate because the mites may have moved from the spot that was scraped.

Over-the-counter and prescription lotions and shampoos (known as pediculicides, peh-DIH-kyoo-lih-sides) can be used to kill head lice. In some cases, treatment may need to be repeated or replaced with stronger medications because lice are becoming resistant to some treatments. Other people living in the same house with the infested person may be treated at the same time.

Pubic lice also are treated with a pediculicide, similar to the treatment of head lice. If the infestation includes the eyelashes, petroleum jelly is applied several times a day to the eyelids for a week or more.

Patients with scabies are given medicated lotions to apply over the entire body, and the lotion must stay on for 8 to 12 hours. Chigger bites do not require any special treatment to heal, but antihistamines * may ease itching.

Infestation with lice and scabies can persist until they are treated properly. Once treatment begins, patients usually are no longer contagious after a day or two, but sores and itching may not disappear for a couple of weeks. Chigger bites heal quickly.

* antihistamines (an-tie-HIS-tuh-meens) are drugs used to combat allergic reactions and relieve itching.

* impetigo (im-pih-TEE-go) is a bacterial skin infection that usually occurs around the nose and mouth and causes itching and fluid-filled blisters that often burst and form yellowish crusts.

Can Skin Parasites Cause Medical

Complications of skin parasites are rare. Frequent or rough scratching of bites or sores can lead to bacterial infections, such as impetigo * . If lice spread to eyebrows or eyelashes, the eyelids may become infected. Norwegian or crusted scabies is a form of scabies that can be severe in people with weak immune systems, such as those with a chronic * illness and elderly people.

How Can People Prevent Infestation with
Skin Parasites?

To avoid skin parasites, experts recommend that people:

  • shower daily, wash hands frequently, and wear clean clothes
  • avoid anyone who has lice or scabies until that person is treated
  • never share brushes, hats, bed linens, or clothes
  • practice abstinence (not having sex); birth control does not prevent pubic lice or scabies
  • avoid chigger-infested areas and wear socks, long pants, and long sleeves in wooded or grassy areas

To prevent the spread of parasites in a home when a family member has been diagnosed with an infestation, it is wise to:

  • wash bed linens, towels, and clothes in hot water, then dry them on high heat
  • vacuum the entire house, then throw the vacuum cleaner bag away
  • disinfect combs and hair items
  • seal items that cannot be cleaned in airtight plastic bags for 2 weeks; at the end of that time, any parasites on those items will have died

In addition, children who have skin parasites should stay home from school or daycare until a day or two after they begin their treatment.

* chronic (KRAH-nik) means continuing for a long period of time.

See also
Skin and Soft Tissue Infections



U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30333. The CDC is the U.S. government authority for information about infectious and other diseases. It posts fact sheets about various parasitic infestations and diseases at its website.
Telephone 800-311-3435

Website . KidsHealth is a website created by the medical experts of the Nemours Foundation and is devoted to issues of children's health. It contains articles on a variety of health topics, including lice, scabies, and chiggers.

User Contributions:

Audrey Rey
I believe I have had scabies for many years. I feel myself getting weaker and weaker. Because I have a Bug Phobia all my life, No one believes me. I suffer every spring, when this parasite inside of me wakes up with vengeance. I have been to 4 Dermatologist's in the past year. These Doctors see that I have a depression and they think I am crazy. My boyfriend thinks we have bedbugs. I keep trying to tell him that the bugs are hatching on me. He tells me to stop talking like that or he will put me in the crazy house. I am so desperate. Can you please help me? Sometimes I am unable to get to my e-mail, if you can call me instead, my phone number is 718-448-1789. Sincerely, Audrey Rey from Staten Island, New York. Thank-you for letting me speak my mind.
I have a worm or parasite in pubic hair there is a lump that they live in hard bump squished it nothing came out.ithink this started20 years ago. above worm is hard first crust!
Cheli Moore
Davina, Me too! Since mid-July. For me the glitter is rare, and I haven't shared that part with anyone, except my 9-year-old son who is suffering from the same thing as me. In addition to the black sandlike ones, I have black sliver like ones, and tiny curly black hairs. White things stuck to hairs are probably dermadex mites egg sacks. But the infectious disease doctor says dermadex don't bite. If you get either a cure, or a proper diagnosis, please contact me. If you send your email to mine, I'll do the same. Currently, I am trying 5 doses of Ivermectin over 15 days. Bites are back today and only one dose left on the 15th.
Anyone else with helpful ideas?
I am having trouble finding any information on what this could be. Some of them are like sand and other one's look like dead skin. What the heck is this? In the morning they are on my sheets. But I can feel them pinch.

I am so glad I found you guys! I have the same thing - black 'bugs', some are sliver-like, white things stuck on my skin and they REALLY bite.
I just started my Ivermectin today. My doctor thought it was body lice. Is that what your doc thought? Please any info would help.

I started getting attacked every night by something that was invisible and thought I had scabies but couldn't find proof, so I went and bought a microscope that attaches to my cell phone and found some really disturbing things. I got some lint rollers and when I felt an itch, I would roll it and see what it was. These things look like black threads that wrap themselves around small weird looking things with antennae. There are also red, blue and green of the same things. My doctor has ordered some tests for me and one came back negative for parasites. Seriously? He did give me a prescription for anti-fungal shampoo because they were biting my head and I have dermatitis. It's called Ketoconazole which you can get over the counter at half strength. I showed my doctor photos of the lint roller tapes on my phone so he knows there is something. When I use the Ketoconazole, scrub my whole body with a mix of half salt and half baby shampoo, then put Johnson's bedtime lavender baby lotion all over, I can sleep through the night. I hope it continues because they seem to become immune to things. My doctor mentioned something about toxins so I am trying to detox by not consuming any other chemicals. We had black mold in the walls in our apartment, so that may have triggered it.
I have these things all over my skin. Mostly on my back of neck back bicept area thys. Chest and face. They look like they have a sharp end to them and it almost looks like you can see a mouth and a stomach when u put lite you can kinda see threw it. Please help anyone 6208603430.
I would look in the direction of morgelleons. It is commonly referred to by western doctors as delusional parasitis (self inflicted) I have been dealing with this for a long time myself. I have been reseArching all different types of possibilities. Morgelleons, a type of parasite, or a fungus are the 3 top reasons I can come up with. Bath in baking soda, 1/2-1 cup and the same amount of epsom sAlt. I use a lot of theraputic grade essential oils, and a lot of natural herbs and such to help with the condition. I also suggest seeing a homeopathic doctor of some sort, and PROBIOTICS! A good one. With as man strains of good bacteria as possible. I changed my diet, I have cut out sugar (which feeds the yeast in the digestive tract) and also dairy and processed foods and I take milk thistle, activated charcoal to help rid my body of it. You must learn about the biofilm because you have to penetrate that in order to kick out the different bacteria that lives inside of there. Grapefruit seed extract and serrapeptaise I have heard work well for that. I hope y’all find some type of relief, I totally understand the struggle. *also, when something starts working to rid your body you will temporarily feel more activity as when it feels threatened it seems to try to multiply as much as possible. It will get better in a couple days.
Terry you and I share the same parasite. I developed symptoms two years ago in the hospital. I had a horrendous itchy back. It's taken less than a year for them to take over my body. I've got brown spots that change shape, "meth arms & teeth". These things literally come out of my gums when I floss and my lips when I squeeze them. My eyes are infected too. I'm losing my eyesight too. My mom is losing her battle with lung & brain cancer. Stress is a big factor as well. I'll keep you posted. Best of health to you all...
Week 4 of insane itchy widely distanced "tiny raised bumps" all started with what I thought was a tick bite. When scratched, the tiny bump turns into a large hot red patch. I checked with my doctor 4 times since. At every visit, their office could not identify the bumps and said I was not contagious then sent me home with antihistamine. My husband has now contracted the same. A feverish feeling without a fever that lasted a day for each of us before the spread started on the torso, inner arms, hips and neck. Husband was pretty upset for the lack of diagnosis so he called our doctor and guess what? Doctor has also contracted it, whatever IT is. The doctor can't even diagnose it himself! If he can't make a proper diagnosis, who can? We thought it might be chiggers, skin lice, bed bugs, etc. but after a thorough search and lint roll tests FOUND NOTHING. We have reviewed any changes to medications, detergents, shampoos, etc. Nothing. I even changed out my entire wardrobe to cotton, just in case. Still nothing has resolved this. My joints have been more painful than usual but this can't be Lyme Disease unless Lyme disease has mutated and is able to hop from human to human rather than from Tick to human. Any suggestions?
I have just experienced my first round with a skin parasite. My brother cam over the other day and slept on our outdoor couch, today when I was working on stuff for my father I started noticing I was getting itchy. I tried taking a shower but that did not do anything. My husband called the Dr. and she gave me an rx cream to used after a baking soda bath.
After the bath I tried to collect as many samples as I could of these teeny tiny little things. after the bath and after putting the slightly burning cream on things felt ok for a while. The sun went down and all the activity began again. They look like tiny little worms and they dig in and live under my skin (but they don't pay rent).. The adults just live under your skin and you need to dig them out of the reddish welt, When they lay their eggs, they seems to all come from the same place. I watched in the mirror as I pulled of many eggs form my face, arms, neck and legs, they are everywhere. in my ears, on my scalp. its constantly itcy and I am completely grossed out byt the fact the they exsist and are have a parasite burning man on my body. I have tried scratching the top of the sealed parent home and pulling them out, it leaves a big hole in its place. The babies seem to come from a doughnut looking home and they pop out one at a time for you to extend the enjoyment of first class nastiness.

I am going to try another bath of milk (lactic acid) and oatmeal for calming, adding some lavender ess oil to the mix. has anyone ever heard of this and what can I do to get rid of them, stop the itching etc???

HELP! please,
thanks in advance for taking the time to advise me.
This comment section is not a space to attain medical advice. Do not wait for someone to contact you from here. Please call the CDC directly or continue to consult you local medical physicians. Do not give up, and seek consult from different doctors if you feel your issue is not resolving.
Last November of 2017 I was in our bedroom watching tv and it started, I kept feeling something crawling on me , mainly my back and hair. Then something would be constantly biting me. Told my husband I thought maybe we had a bug infestation somewhere because it seemed like it was happening a lot more now. Thought maybe fleas or even mites possibly. Since then , it is October of 2018 and whatever this is it is now to the extreme. It has to be a infestation of something!! I have seen several doctors and dermatologists and been to urgent care and to the ER over 13 times! I have been misdiagnosed every time! I am scared when the sun goes down because that is when this is the most active. Every night since last November I am experiencing itching crawling biting. I cry every night because I don’t know what this is . Crawling on my back , to something in my hair is moving to out of no where surprise biting attacks . Whatever in my hair it is constantly crawling to my face I am always swiping my eyes nose mouth hitting these away from my face. The movement in my hair is so creepy I will never get use to it . It has made me become very jumpy. The biting catches me off guard every time. Lately I feel like I am being ganged up on because it becomes so bad. I am fearing for my health . Not one person has been able to find anything. And what’s worse, you can’t see them, but you feel them. And , out of four people living in house I am the only person that is going through it! And, try having not one person that believes you. I have been told to get help go see physiologist!!! I have been going through something almost a year. I’m so frustrated, depressed, losing hope that this will not show itself and I will never be able to get the right treatment, kill and remove out of hair and off my body forever. Don’t know what it is and no one can see anything to tell me what this is! It’s not lice, not scabies! I still thought maybe mites or fleas? I can’t even get any exterminator over here because they don’t even believe me either! When this starts up , it will go on for days!!! It won’t let me sleep, or eat too distracting!! It has spread all over house to backyard! It’s on our bed, it’s on my clothes! Linens, towels everything ! But , still the only one that is being torcheredby it for endless nights to days! It never stops , can’t ever get a break either! I can’t get anyone to identify it . I can tell you that it hates peppermint soap , lavender, coconut, tea tree oil, olive oil, lemon scent Lysol, bleach, windex glass cleaner, apple cider vinegar. These are very hard to kill!! They are very annoying, very pushy, persistent, I have pics of them but no one will look at them tell me what they are! I have suffered day and night by these! Can someone just look at my pics please and maybe offer a suggestion, opinion what these are how to kill them? I’m so desperate I just want to go back to my own life ! Let me know please , anyone? I’m running out of time because it’s destroying my hair , I will be bald soon maybe 2-3 months left before all my hair is gone? ! Renee
Hello, any new discoveries anyone? What can this be? I feel like it is a type of biting gnat that can attach itself to humans.
Heather Graham
My situation is so bad that I vomit up parasites daily. I have been to emergency four times and they tell me to stop wasting there time that I do not have a parasite. How they can say this when they refuse to test me in any way.My family Dr. of two years has visually seen them twice as I got tired of the test results saying I had nothing so on two different occasions I took a cake pan into him. First time he freaked saying go to emergency which, I refused as they had already denied me treatment so he ran and got another Doctor who then looked it the cake pan and said she has the flukes , that sample came back as a bacterial infection for both myself and son. The second time he quarantined the office room and demanded I never bring in another sample.Later I was refused to be seen by infectious disease and refused medication of any kind. I even tried to call and set up an appointment with infectious Disease and when I told them my name and my file popped up it must say that I have no parasite and that I am obsessed with the fact that I do. I was again refused treatment. I have called the College of Physicians to report this but, in order to do this I must name the Dr. I fear doing this as I also work in the Rehabilitation Field full time and part time as a Nurses Aid in a Nursing Home and the last thing I need is for word to get around that filed a legal complaint. I have been under the care of a Chinese Master Herbalist and the medication was good but did not cure me. I was then seeing a Tibetan Monk Dr. and his medication also helped but when I stopped taking it they came back and I now have them in my hair and hands to the point it has taken me a few hours to type this as my fingers are swelled up and sore as hell. Up until this past September I had shared my health issues with all my family, friends and Co Workers, I no longer do this. I had to step down from my Nursing Contract as the fear of passing the parasite on. I started in November a new Nursing Assistant contract as I thought I was clear from them, I am 100% positive I still have a parasite and I fear passing them on to someone at work but, without Proof of this from a Dr. I must go into work or get fired. I am tired ...tired of trying to find out what I have , tired of trying to get medical assistance , tired of being judged , tired of the pain the severe pain I get when they are in my feet and legs. I just Can't handle the pain and vomiting in which occurs daily. I also am afraid to go back to a Dr. as they may record negative information in my file due to the fact that they believe I have no parasite. I have been taking photos since a year ago April of my hands, feet, and stool when I can get a Dr. to look at them they say that can't be sure. If they don't believe me it is a parasite then why in world do they not try and find out what it is but, they do nothing so I quite seeing a Dr. I recently started the Avenda Parasite program and I am seeing toilet bowls of them coming out of me but, I am also have become more infested in different areas like my hair and fingers. I have an appointment tomorrow at a Naturopathic Clinic
in hopes they can cure me. I have recently started coughing and have two pictures of my vomited and what looks to me like black faced parasites with a white body. PLEASE can someone tell me where to go to get diagnosed and cured? I need to be diagnosed as my Foster Son who has Cerebral Palsy and my Grandson also have them but not at the level of infection in which I do. Without a diagnoses I can not them treated.
Jeff Powell
I have these long thin worms in my face arms and legs blood test showed nothing and doctors told me I am crazy I have 12 different larvae’s from all over my body and pulled a few worms out of me what is it and y can I treat them can’t sleep or eat and feel them moving everywhere under my skin
Joe blew
Mrs. Graham,
You gotta understand the bug in order to beat it. Shy of you stating this and that in your post, besides the monk and the china men what kinds of potions do they give you?
From an outsider's Point since I don't know what all you've tried or what all they've tried I'd start here. and this for me was the hardest cut all sugar out of your diet I did it for a solid week and I'm a candy Junkie. Substitute to sweets for honey ton of local raw honey also take wormwood, cloves, oregano, tons of garlic and start juicing raw liquid chooses pineapples lots of rooms bananas in my banana milkshake with my pineapples again no sugar no refined sugar no artificial sugar Shotokan all that out yourself you have to flush your inside out and make yourself as least tasty as possible because you are the host for the party and they will only hang out there while you let them. clean your house from top to bottom vacuum vacuum vacuum and wipe everything down these bugs can survive chlorine from what I understand so vacuum vacuum vacuum. Wash everything in super hot water and try everything on Isis don't put anything in your mouth since ever something touch base it's washed even if it's just a few minutes afterwards if you have any important that you don't put anything in your mouth. If you do just continued their life cycle. check back in a couple days trust me it's not fun or easy but it is manageable and it is doable. God bless
I have this parasite that looks like hair it bites nothing kills it is a master of disquise it bites it's very tiny to large hair

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