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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Scabies - When To Call a Doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • Family members suddenly develop severe nighttime itching that does not go away in 3 to 4 days.
  • You develop serious side effects from any product used to treat scabies.
  • Itching lasts longer than 4 weeks after treatment. (After successful treatment, itching will usually last for 2 to 4 weeks as a result of the allergic reaction to previous mite bites.)
  • You have signs of a skin infection. These may include:
    • Increased pain, swelling, heat, redness, or tenderness.
    • Red streaks extending away from the affected area.
    • Continued discharge of pus.
    • Fever of 100°F (37.8°C) or higher with no other cause.

Watchful Waiting

Do not wait more than 3 to 4 days to seek medical help if you think you have scabies. The infestation and symptoms will not go away without treatment. The longer you wait to seek care, the more likely you are to spread the mites to other people.

If you are sure that a case of scabies is related to a similar condition spread by animals (sarcoptic mange), it may be appropriate to wait as long as a week. The mites that cause this type of scabies cannot live on human skin for more than a few days, so the human infestation should go away on its own without treatment. The animal, though, must be treated by a veterinarian.

Who To See

The following health professionals can diagnose and treat scabies:

  • Local health department staff
  • Family medicine doctor or internist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Physician assistant
  • Pediatrician
  • Dermatologist

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 30, 2009
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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