What are the Different Types of Skin Parasites?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2019
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Skin parasites are tiny, often microscopic invertebrates that live on the skin of humans and animals. They burrow or bite in order to feed off the blood directly beneath the skin. Lice are considered one of the most common types of these parasites. Other common skin parasites include scabies, ticks, and fleas.

Most lice, though very tiny, are visible without the use of a microscope. The three different types of lice that live on human skin are head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. All three varieties of these skin parasites are blood feeders and very easy to spread from one person to another. In most cases, the presence of lice on the body causes itching and redness.

Scabies is a type of skin mite that causes extreme itching. People who have scabies often mistake the infestation for an allergic type reaction, because infested areas usually appear as bumpy red patches on the skin. These tiny bumps are actually the result of egg sacks that the mites lay when they burrow into the skin.

Treatment for both scabies and lice usually involves soaps and shampoos that kill the pests. Most of the time, these shampoos and washes must be repeated over a period of several days to be sure all of the parasites have been eliminated. It also usually necessary to thoroughly clean and wash home furnishings, carpets, and bed linens, because lice and scabies can be transferred to these items.


Fleas are often spread to humans from the pets inside their homes. Unlike other skin parasites whose bites often go unnoticed, flea bites can sometimes be painful. Most of the time, the bitten area becomes immediately red and irritated. Though it is considered rare, in some instances fleas have been known to transfer dangerous diseases, such as typhus and even plague.

Ridding a home of fleas can be quite difficult, but usually must begin with flea treatment for pets. Unless the pets are free of fleas, there is little hope of keeping the home flea free. Most veterinarians can prescribe monthly flea applications that often do the trick. Flea sprays for the home can be purchased at most hardware stores, but in cases of severe infestation, it may be necessary to hire a professional exterminator.

Ticks are another type of skin parasite that is often spread from pets within the home. Ticks usually live in wooded habitats, so people who spend a lot of time outdoors are at greater risk of being bitten by a tick. When ticks bite, they attach themselves to the skin where they begin to feed on blood. In many cases, tick bites lead to infection, so the bites should be immediately cleaned and treated with disinfectant.


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