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What is it?

Scabies are small mites (insect-like creatures) that dig under the skin, lay eggs, hatch and spread to other parts of the body. Scabies are spread from person to person by close personal contact. Usually more than one person in the family has it.

What you may see in your child:

  • Itching that is worse at night. There is a fine “rash” that looks like burrows and appears as gray or white thin lines. The burrows are often on the groin, buttocks, arms, hands, feet and legs, especially in areas such as between the fingers, the wrists, insides of elbows, underarms, near the “belt line”, belly button. It may also be present around the nipples, the area between the buttocks and on the buttocks. In children less than two years of age the rash may have small blisters and may be found on the head, neck, palms and soles of the feet.
  • The rash spreads from one place to another.
  • Scratching may change the way the “rash” looks.


Scabies may be diagnosed by opening one of the skin bumps or sores, taking some material and looking at it under the microscope. Sometimes one of the mites can be seen. Your doctor may diagnose scabies by the way the rash looks.

Scabies are treated with a special cream or lotion. There are many medicines used to treat scabies, and the doctor will order the best one for your child. Since scabies can be passed to other family members, everyone who lives in the house must be treated even if no one else seems to have it yet. Your doctor may also order medicine to control itching. Your child may return to school or day care after the treatment is complete.

Children who are in the hospital and have scabies are put on contact isolation. This means anyone touching them will wear gowns and gloves until treatment is completed. The isolation will help prevent the spread of the scabies to other patients, visitors, and health care workers.

Home Care:

You must follow the doctor's directions for applying the cream for it to work. Apply the cream to cool, dry skin - not after a hot bath. The cream must be applied to every inch of the body from the neck down. Infants less than one year old also need it applied to the scalp, forehead, temples, and neck. It is usually applied at bedtime and washed off the next morning. The treatment needs to be repeated in 7-10 days in order to kill any mites that hatched after the initial treatment. The bumps, rash, and itching may not go away for several weeks or months, even after treatment. The doctor may prescribe something to help with itching. All family and household members will need to be treated as well. Bedding and clothing should be machine washed and dried in the hot cycle.

Clothing or other items that can not be washed should be stored for several days to a week in a sealed plastic bag or 24-48 hours in a freezer to help prevent getting scabies again. Let your child's day care or babysitter know so other children who have had contact with your child can be checked for scabies.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • The itching gets so bad that your child cannot sleep.
  • The rash becomes weepy or crusty. (This may be a sign of infection.)
  • The rash does not look better in 2 to 3 weeks or it continues to spread.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/06

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