What's the Treatment for Scabies?

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on May 20, 2023
3 min read

If you, or someone in your household, has scabies, your doctor will recommend that everyone under your roof be treated at the same time. This will help to kill the existing bugs and keep them from spreading. That means using a product on your body to kill the mites and their eggs, and cleaning your home to get rid of them, too.

If you have scabies, your doctor will prescribe a medication called a “scabicide.” It contains permethrin, and it comes in a lotion or cream form.

Adults and children should apply the medication all over their body -- from the neck down to the feet and toes. If your baby or young child has scabies, you’ll apply the product in the same manner. Leave the medication on for the recommended amount of time (usually 8 to 14 hours), then wash it off. Change into clean clothes. Infants ages 2 months and younger and pregnant women will use a topical sulphur ointment rather than permethrin

Your doctor may recommend a second treatment with a scabicide 1 to 2 weeks later, to make sure the mites are gone.

If you have a more severe type of scabies called ”crusted” or “Norwegian scabies,” a rare form of the condition that may affect people with weaker immune systems, the treatment will be permethrin for 7 days. You’ll continue to apply it twice per week until the scabies are gone. You’ll do this in addition to taking an anti-mite pill.

Even if no one else in your household shows signs of scabies, your doctor will probably recommend they be treated. Ask your doctor about whether scabicides are a good option for the rest of your family.

Once the mites are gone, you may still have intense itching, even for weeks afterward. Antihistamines, like loratadine (Claritin) or cetirizine (Zyrtec) can help make you more comfortable. If your itching is severe, your doctor might prescribe a steroid cream or oral glucocorticoids. You might also need to be retreated with scabicide.

Your skin should heal once the mites are treated. But if you develop signs of infection (redness, pus, swelling), see your doctor. They’ll likely prescribe an antibiotic.

In rare cases, you can catch scabies by touching the clothing or bedsheets of an infected person. Crusted scabies is more likely to be spread in this way. Still, it’s a good idea to wash items an infected person touched in the days leading up to treatment. This includes clothing, bedding, towels, underwear, and stuffed animals. Wash them in very hot water and dry them in the dryer on high heat.

You can also place these items in a plastic bag for 3 days, then throw them into the washing machine or take them to the dry cleaners.

Kids can normally return to school after just one treatment for scabies. The mites aren’t likely to spread through casual contact.