Can't Get Rid of Scabies?
Your Local Dermatologist Can Help


What Is Scabies and Who Gets It?

Scabies is caused by eight-legged bugs called mites, which are so small, they can’t be seen on your skin. These mites burrow into the skin and cause an itchy rash. Scabies is contagious and can be passed or received through skin-to-skin contact with others. The longer the contact, the better chance there is of spreading the mites. A quick handshake or hug is usually not long enough to spread mites. It’s typically spread through sexual or prolonged physical contact. Sharing towels, bedding or clothing can also spread the condition, but this is less common.

Symptoms may not show up for two to six weeks for those who’ve never had the condition. Those who’ve had scabies my start itching within a few days. Symptoms include severe itching, rash and sores caused by scratching (which can become infected). Scabies usually appears on the hands, wrists, arms, skin covered by jewelry and skin covered by clothing (like the buttocks, belt line and genitals).

Anyone can get scabies, no matter their age or race. Having frequent skin-to-skin contact with others or a weakened immune system can increase your risk. Also, children, mothers of young children, nursing home residents and aides, and sexually-active adults have a higher risk of getting scabies. 

In adults, mites rarely burrow into the skin above the neck. But in children, the entire body can be affected. Infants and children with scabies may be tired and irritable from lack of sleep, and they may develop blisters from scabies infection.

Diagnosing and Treating Scabies

A board-certified dermatologist can examine your skin and determine if you have scabies. It may be necessary to scrape a small skin sample to examine under a microscope as well. If any sign of mites or their eggs are present, you have scabies. 

Treatment is vital for scabies. Starting treatment as soon as possible is also important. This will help relieve itching and help prevent you from spreading the condition to others. If you are diagnosed with scabies, make sure that everyone you have close contact with also received treatment. This includes those you have sexual contact with, those in your immediate household, day care or school classmates and teachers/supervisors, and other residents or team members at nursing or assisted living facilities. 

Medicine to treat scabies is only available by prescription. Usually, this involves a topical medication such as permethrin cream. Crotamiton cream or lindane lotion. Sulfur ointment can be used to treat scabies in young children and pregnant women. If prescribed on of these medications, you’ll typically apply it before bedtime. Be sure to apply exactly as directed. 

While not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA), an oral medication called ivermectin is recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control for infections caused by this parasite. Consult with your dermatologist if you should take this medication as well. In some cases, additional treatment may be needed, such as:

  • An antihistamine to control the itch and help you sleep.
  • Pramoxine lotion to control the itch.
  • An antibiotic to eliminate any infection.
  • A steroid cream to help with redness, swelling and itch.

Managing Scabies at Home

When you start treatment:

  • Wash all your bedding, clothes and towels that you’ve been in contact with the past six weeks. Wash them with the hottest water possible and dry in a hot dryer. If you can’t wash them, have them dry cleaned or seal in a plastic bag for at least a week.
  • Vacuum your entire home, then throw away the vacuum bag. If your vacuum doesn’t have a bag, empty the cannister and wash it out with hot water and soap. 
  • Don’t treat your pets. The mites cannot survive on animals, so they don’t need to be treated.


Oral and Topical Medications

Dermatologists are experts in bacterial, viral and fungal infections in the skin and have a deep knowledge of how to best use antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medications. Learn More

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