Scabies is caused by an infestation of tiny mites that burrow into the skin's upper layer. Scabies causes severe itching and skin sores, and getting rid of a scabies infestation can be difficult. You can take action to ensure that the condition is no longer contagious.
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Things you need
- Prescription creams or lotions ("scabicides")
See your doctor right away. If you suspect you or your family member has scabies, your doctor needs to provide an examination and treatment. In addition, scabies can be cured only with prescription creams or lotions.
Treat everyone in your household, too. Anyone who has had close skin-to-skin contact with the infested person within the preceding month should seek treatment as well.
Treat all bedding and clothing. Decontaminate all bedding, clothing and towels in your household by washing in hot water and drying in a hot dryer, by dry-cleaning, or by sealing in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours. Scabies mites usually cannot survive more than 2 or 3 days away from human skin.
Return to school, work or other group settings after you complete treatment. Children and adults usually can return to childcare, school or work the day after treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Common treatments include: permethrin cream (apply at bedtime and wash off the next morning); lindane lotion (also apply at bedtime and wash off the next morning); sulphur ointment and crotamiton (used for infants); and ivermectin (oral medication for difficult-to-treat cases). According to the American Academy of Dermatology, all these medications are effective for scabies.
Keep alert for continued symptoms. After treatment, the itching can continue for several weeks, the CDC says. If you see burrows or pimple-like rashes appear on your skin, you may need another treatment.
Tips and warnings
- If you are uncertain whether all the scabies mites are dead after treatment, see your doctor before returning to school, work or any other group setting.
- Don't try to use over-the-counter medications or creams to treat a scabies infestation. "No 'over-the-counter' (non-prescription) products have been tested and approved to treat scabies," according to the CDC.
- Remember that the first time a person gets scabies, they usually have no symptoms for the first 2 to 6 weeks after becoming infested, but they are still contagious during this time.
- Don't use insecticide sprays or fumigants to get rid of scabies.
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