Scabies is a skin condition caused by infestation with mites. A mite is a spider-like insect so small that it can only be seen under a microscope. The female mite burrows under the skin and lays eggs. The path where the mite burrows looks like a tiny scratch mark.

The mites cause severe itching. If the skin is scratched open, it can become infected.

Scabies is “caught” by having skin-to-skin contact with a person who has it, or much less commonly, by wearing clothes that have scabies mites living in them. It is not caused by poor hygiene. All family members who have had direct contact with an affected person should be treated at the same time.

To treat scabies:

  • Buy the cream prescribed by your doctor. The most common treatment is 5% Permethrin cream. This has been proven safe in infants as young as 2 months of age.
  • Apply the cream or lotion to the child and all persons being treated on the same night.
  • Massage the cream into the scalp of all children under 2 years of age and for any child with an itching scalp.
  • Apply a thin coat of the prescribed cream or lotion to the entire surface of the child’s skin, from the neck down. If your child is less than 1 year old, you should also treat the head and neck. The mites like to live in warm, moist areas between fingers and toes, in the belly button, armpits, under fingernails and in the skin around the waist and genital area. Make very sure the cream or lotion is applied to these areas.
  • Leave the cream on for 8-12 hours. (Overnight is convenient)
  • Then have your child take a bath or shower and wash thoroughly, all treated persons should be treated in the same manner.
  • Itching may continue for several more days, and may not completely go away for 6 weeks. If itching hasn’t improved in a week, call your doctor.
  • In some cases, a second application one week later may be recommended by the physician.

Store the cream out of children’s reach. If any of the cream happens to get into the eyes, wash the eyes with cool water.

The mite that causes scabies can live in clothing and bed linens for up to a week. The morning after the lotion is applied it is suggested that you complete the following cleaning:

  • You can treat linen and clothing in one of three ways:
    • Using hot water, wash all clothing, bed linens, towels, and washcloths that have been used or worn within the week before your child was treated.
    • Clothes can be put in the dryer at highest heat for 15 minutes. Wipe dryer when done.
    • Put all clothes and linens used away in garbage bags tied tightly for 1 week. Shake out items after removing them from the bag.
  • Clean clothes should be worn after each treatment.
  • Bed linens should be changed after each treatment.
  • Mites may live in carpets and furniture. Vacuum all carpets, upholstered furniture, floor length cutains and wipe all flat surfaces.
  • Remember to clean coats, highchair covers and stroller seats/covers.

To prevent scabies from spreading, all family and household members with skin contact should be treated whether or not they are itching or have a rash. Scabies may not show any signs until 1 month after exposure.

If you know the person from whom your child got scabies, avoid skin-to-skin contact with that person until he/she is treated.