Scabies is a skin condition caused by microscopic insects called mites that dig under the skin leading to a rash and intense itching usually worse at night.

Scabies is highly contagious:

  • Easily passed from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact
  • Less easily passed via items such as clothes, towels, and bedding
  • Mites can stay alive on personal items for up to 3 days


  • One overnight treatment is usually sufficient to cure scabies, but sometimes a second treatment may be necessary
  • Even after treatment, itching and rash may persist for weeks
  • Itching or rash does not mean your child is still infected, unless live mites are present


Scabies is typically treated with a prescription cream or lotion or sometimes an oral medication:

  1. Before bedtime, give your child a warm bath or shower, then dry the skin.
  2. Apply the medicine by massaging a thin layer into the skin starting at the neck and working your way down to the soles of the feet. For infants less than 12 months old, also include the scalp and face (avoiding the eyes and mouth). Areas that don’t look infected should still be covered. Don’t forget areas under the arms, between fingers and toes, in the genital area, navel, or other creases.
  3. Medicine should be left on 8 – 14 hours or overnight.
  4. If you need to wash your child’s hands or diaper area before bed, reapply medicine.
  5. In the morning, wash off the medicine in the shower or bath.

Since scabies is highly contagious and symptoms usually take at least 4 weeks to develop after exposure, your doctor may recommend treating everyone in the house with medicine even if they do not show any signs of infection.

Once you start treatment:

  • Wash clothes, towels, or linen from the past week in hot water then dry on high heat
  • Wash high-contact items such as stuffed animals
  • Dry-cleaning will also get rid of the scabies mite
  • Any items that cannot be washed or dry-cleaned should be placed in a sealed plastic bag for at least 3 days
  • Vacuum the furniture and carpeting well

To help soothe your child’s itching:

  • Give cool baths without soap, then apply hydrocortisone 1% cream (no prescription necessary) to itchy areas up to 2 – 3 times per day
  • Oral antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) or cetirizine (Zyrtec) may help
  • Keep fingernails cut short and have your child wear cotton socks or mittens on their hands to prevent scratching

Children can generally return to school or daycare after one treatment of scabies.



  • Sores are rapidly increasing in size or number, or begin to drain pus
  • Your child starts to act very sick

Call during office hours if:

  • New scabies occurs after treatment is completed
  • You have any other concerns

For additional info:

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