To diagnose scabies, your health care provider looks at your skin for symptoms of mites. Your provider may also take a sample of your skin to look at under a microscope. This allows your provider to see if any mites or eggs are present.
Scabies treatment involves killing the mites and eggs with a medicated cream or pill. No treatment is available without a prescription. Several creams and lotions are available by prescription.
Your health care provider will likely ask you to apply the medication to your whole body, from the neck down. You'll need to leave it on for at least 8 to 14 hours. Sometimes, you may have to apply the lotion twice. More treatments may be needed if new symptoms appear..
Because scabies spreads so easily, your health care provider will likely recommend treating all household members and other close contacts, even if they don't have symptoms of scabies..
Treatment for scabies often includes:.
- Permethrin cream. Permethrin is a skin cream with chemicals that kill mites that cause scabies and their eggs. It's generally considered safe for adults, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children over 2 months old.
- Sulfur cream. Sulfur cream is a scabies treatment that can be applied overnight, rinsed off and then reapplied for five nights in a row. Sulfur is safe to use in pregnancy and in children under 2 months old.
- Ivermectin (Stromectol). Ivermectin can be taken as a pill to treat scabies when prescription lotions don't work. It's often prescribed for people with crusted scabies or lowered immune systems. Ivermectin isn't recommended for people who are pregnant or nursing, or for children who weigh less than 33 pounds (15 kilograms).
Although these drugs kill the mites quickly, itching may not stop for many weeks.
Health care providers may prescribe other skin care treatments for people who don't get relief from or can't use these drugs.
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Lifestyle and home remedies
Your skin might still itch for several weeks after scabies treatment. Taking oral allergy pills or using nonprescription skin creams, such as calamine lotion, may help ease itching.
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with a member of your health care team if you or your child has symptoms of scabies.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Things to do before your appointment
- List any symptoms you or your child has had, and for how long.
- List any possible sources of infection, such as other family members who have had a rash.
- Write down key medical information, including any other health problems and the names of any medications you or your child is taking.
- Write down questions you want to ask your provider.
Below are some basic questions to ask your provider about scabies.
- What's the most likely cause of these symptoms?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- How soon will my symptoms improve with treatment?
- When will you see me or my child again to be sure the treatment is working?
- Are there any home remedies or self-care steps that I can use to relieve symptoms?
- Am I or is my child contagious? For how long?
- How can I prevent spreading scabies to others?
What to expect from your doctor
Your health care provider is likely to ask you several questions. Preparing for these questions ahead of time may help ensure that you get the most out of your appointment. Your provider may ask:
- What symptoms have you noticed?
- When did you first notice these symptoms?
- Have these symptoms gotten worse over time?
- If you or your child has a rash, what parts of the body are affected?
- Have you been in frequent, close contact with anyone who has had a rash, an itch or both within the past several weeks?
- Are you pregnant or nursing?
- Are you or is your child being treated or have you or your child recently been treated for any other medical conditions?
- What medications are you or your child taking, including prescription and nonprescription drugs, vitamins and supplements?
- Is your child in child care?
What you can do in the meantime
Before your appointment, try at-home and nonprescription remedies to help reduce itching. Allergy pills and calamine lotion may provide some relief. Ask your health care provider what nonprescription medications and lotions are safe for your child.