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Scabies

  • Overview

    Scabies is an infestation of mites. These tiny insects leave small red bumps that cause intense itching. The mites burrowing into the skin where they lay eggs that hatch a few days later cause the itching.

    • Scabies is highly contagious; it spreads from close personal contact.
    • It occurs mostly in children and young adults.
    • Treatment includes antibiotic creams.
    • If one member of your family has it, your entire family will most likely be treated as well.
    • All clothing and bedding should be washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer.

    Children's Hospital Boston
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115
     617-355-6117 
     fax: 617-713-0308

  • In-Depth

    What is scabies?
    Scabies is an infestation of mites. These tiny insects leave small red bumps that cause intense itching. The mites burrowing into the skin where they lay eggs that hatch a few days later cause the itching.

    What causes scabies?
    Scabies is highly contagious and spreads from person-to-person while they are sleeping together in the same bed or have close personal contact.

    Are scabies common?
    While scabies can affect people of all ages, it occurs mostly in children and young adults.

    What are the symptoms of scabies?
    The most common symptom of scabies is a rash. If your child is under 2, the rash tends to be on the head, neck, palms and soles. If your child is older, the rash is usually on the hands, chest, between the fingers, wrists, belt line, thighs, belly button, in the groin area and in the armpits. In addition to a rash, the most common symptoms include:

    • itching, usually severe
    • scaly or crusty skin (with advanced conditions)

    It may take between four to six weeks for your child to develop symptoms of scabies after coming in contact with an infected person.

  • Tests

    How does a doctor know that it's scabies?

    Your doctor will examine your child's skin and skin crevices. Our specialists may take a sample of your child's skin, obtained by scraping the skin, to look at under a microscope to confirm the presence of mites.

  • Scabies is treatable and usually all members in your family will be treated at the same time. It's important to wash all clothes and bedding in hot water and dry in a hot dryer. Clothing and other objects that cannot be washed (i.e., pillows, stuffed animals) should be placed in a plastic bag for at least one week.

    Traditional treatments for scabies
    The following is the typical treatment for scabies. Note that the itching may continue for about one week after the treatment begins.

    • prescription creams and lotions, such as permethrin and lindane solutions
    • oral antihistamine medication (to help relieve itching)
    • topical ointments and cool baths
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