Treatment of Scabies

Key Points

  • If you think you have scabies, see a healthcare provider.
  • Over-the-counter medications does not treat scabies.

Treatment overview

If you suspect you have scabies, seek medical attention. Your healthcare professional can prescribe a cream or lotion to apply to skin that kills scabies mites, called scabicides. Apply to clean skin and follow the instructions for how long to leave on before washing off. A medication by mouth is another option for the treatment of scabies that may be prescribed by your healthcare provider.

There are simple steps you can take to prevent the further spread of scabies, including

  • Complete your medication as prescribed.
  • Wash bedding, clothing, and towels in hot water and dry in a hot dryer. Temperatures in excess of 50°C or 122°F for 10 minutes will kill mites and eggs.
  • Dry-clean or seal items in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours to up one week that can't be washed traditionally.
  • Avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with others until treatment is finished.
  • Notify people you had direct skin-to-skin contact with during the previous two months to seek medical attention.

Scabies mites generally do not survive more than two to three days away from human skin.

Treatment for young children and infants

  • For children, apply the scabicide lotion or cream to their entire head, neck, and body. Scabies can affect the face, scalp, and neck, as well as the rest of the body.
  • For infants, only use the scabicide recommended by their pediatrician. Not all scabicides used on adults can be used on children.

The itching from scabies is due to a hypersensitivity reaction (allergy) to mites and their feces; itching may continue for several weeks even if all the mites and eggs are killed.

You may need retreatment if

  • itching is present more than 2 to 4 weeks after treatment, or
  • new burrows appear, or
  • new pimple-like rashes appear.

If skin sores develop or you think you might have a skin infection, please contact your healthcare professional immediately.

What not to do

  • Do not use insecticide sprays and fumigants to treat scabies or crusted scabies.
  • Do not use over-the-counter (non-prescription) products to treat scabies. These products have not been tested and approved to treat scabies.