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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Scabies - Treatment Overview

If you suspect that you have scabies, see your doctor as soon as possible for treatment. Delaying treatment increases the risk that the scabies mites will spread to other people. Scabies will not go away on its own.

  • Scabies can only be cured with prescription creams, lotions, or pills. Nonprescription medicines are not strong enough to kill the mites.
  • Most creams or lotions are applied to the entire body from the neck down. On infants, the medicine is also applied to the scalp, face, and neck, taking care to avoid the area around the mouth and eyes. The medicine usually is left on for 8 to 14 hours and then washed off.
  • Children can usually return to day care or school after treatment is completed and the medicine has been washed off. Treatment takes 1 to 3 days depending on the medicine used.
  • In some cases, the doctor may prescribe ivermectin pills to treat the scabies.
  • Your doctor may recommend that you be examined 2 weeks and 4 weeks after completing treatment, to ensure that the scabies has cleared up.
  • Persistent nodular scabies may be treated with injections of steroids into the nodules. In rare cases, coal tar products are applied to the nodules.

You will likely continue to itch for days to weeks after the mites are killed. This itching is caused by an ongoing allergic reaction to the mite bites. Your doctor may recommend antihistamines (such as Benadryl), steroid creams, and, in severe cases, steroid pills to help relieve itching. The allergic reaction will usually disappear gradually.

Who else should be treated?

Anyone who has had close physical contact with a person who is infested with scabies should be treated. This may include several members of the same household, including anyone who has prolonged skin-to-skin contact (sleeping, bathing, or holding hands) with the infected person.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 14, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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