A mites rash refers to a skin rash caused by an infestation of tiny mites. Mites are microscopic arachnids that can live on the skin and cause irritation, leading to red, itchy rashes. There are several different types of mites that can cause skin rashes, such as scabies mites, bird mites, rodent mites, and chigger mites. Each type of mite rash has some distinctive features, but they also share some common characteristics.
Common features of mite rashes
While the appearance of mite rashes can vary, they often have the following features:
- Very itchy rash or welts
- Small red bumps or blisters
- Rash that is worse at night
- Lesions located between fingers, on wrists, elbows, armpits, beltline, thighs, genital area
- Thin burrow lines visible on some rashes
- Rash spreads to other parts of the body over time
The intense itching and rash are caused by an allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs, or their feces. Mite rashes will continue to spread and get worse over time if left untreated.
Scabies is caused by an infestation of the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. This microscopic mite burrows into the top layer of the skin to feed on skin cells and lay eggs. The scabies rash has some classic features:
- Very itchy, often worse at night
- Thin, wavy burrow lines visible on some areas of the rash
- Small bumps, vesicles, pimples, or scales between fingers, on wrists, elbows, armpits, beltline, thighs, genital area
- Rash spreads over time to torso, scalp, palms, soles of feet
Scabies mites easily spread through skin-to-skin contact and can quickly infect entire families or communities. Diagnosis is made by finding the mites, eggs, or feces through skin scrapings or special dermatoscopy.
Bird mite and rodent mite rashes
Bird and rodent mites are found in the nests and environments of their hosts. When the host animals die or abandon the nest, the mites can spread to humans and cause itchy skin rashes. These mite rashes cause:
- Small red bumps in random patterns
- Mostly on torso, arms, and legs
- Very intense itching, gets worse at night
- May resemble hives or welts
- Rash comes and goes
The rash normally goes away after a few days if there are no longer mites biting the skin. Bird and rodent mites do not reproduce on human skin or spread from person to person.
Chigger mite rash
Chiggers are a form of mite that bite into the skin to feed. They inject irritating saliva that causes intensely itchy welts or bumps. Features of chigger bites include:
- Small red welts that resemble pimples or hives
- Clustered in groups or lines
- Mostly found around ankles, waist, armpits, groin
- Very itchy, often worse at night
- Healing can take 1-2 weeks
Chiggers fall off the skin after feeding. The itchy rash is an allergic reaction to the saliva. Chiggers do not burrow under the skin or spread from person to person. They are common in fields and grassy areas.
Diagnosing mite rashes
Mite rashes can be difficult to diagnose just by appearance. A doctor will often ask questions to determine if it could be scabies or another mite infestation. Important questions include:
- Is there is a history of exposure to birds, rodents, or other people with a similar rash?
- Is there an itchy rash between the fingers, on wrists, elbows, beltline or genitals?
- Are there any thin, wavy burrow lines visible?
- Has the rash spread to other family members or sexual partners?
A skin scraping, adhesive tape sample, or dermatoscopy exam of the skin may be done to try and find mites, eggs, or feces. A biopsy can also confirm parasite infestation.
Treating mite rashes
Mite rashes are highly contagious and require treatment with special medications and topical creams. Some options include:
- Permethrin cream – applied to all areas of the body and washed off after 8-14 hours
- Ivermectin tablets – oral medication taken in 1-2 doses
- Sulfur ointments – applied directly to the rash for 3-6 days
- Crotamiton lotion – used to reduce itching
- Antihistamines – oral medications to reduce inflammation and itching
All family members, sexual partners, and close contacts should also be treated to prevent ongoing spread. The home should be thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed to get rid of any remaining mites.
For bird or rodent mite rashes, the best treatment is avoiding the infested environment until the mites die off. Topical corticosteroids and antihistamines can help manage itching.
Preventing mite rashes
You can reduce the risk of developing a mite rash by taking these preventive steps:
- Avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has scabies or an unexplained rash.
- Wear protective clothing like gloves, long sleeves, pants when in contact with birds, rodents or their nests.
- Shower immediately after any outdoor activities where chiggers may be present.
- Wash clothes after possible mite exposure at high temperatures.
- Use acaricides and insect repellants when spending time outdoors.
- Treat pets that go outdoors for mites regularly.
When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor if:
- You develop an extremely itchy or worsening rash.
- The rash spreads to other family members.
- You have burrow lines, blisters, or skin thickening.
- Home treatment does not resolve symptoms.
- You have open sores or a skin infection develops.
A doctor can diagnose the type of mite infestation and provide appropriate treatment. Leaving mites untreated can allow the rash to spread and become more severe over time.
Mite rashes can be caused by several types of mites like scabies, bird, rodent, and chiggers. They cause red, itchy rashes and blisters on the skin. While they share some common characteristics, each mite rash also has some unique features based on the mite and location on the body. Diagnosis involves evaluating risk factors and possibly skin tests. Treatment requires medications that kill mites along with topical creams for itching and inflammation. With prompt treatment, most mite rashes can be cured.