Scabies in Children: Care Instructions

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Scabies is a very itchy rash caused by tiny bugs called mites. These tiny mites dig just under the skin and lay eggs. An allergic reaction to the mites causes the itching. It can take 4 to 6 weeks after a person gets scabies for the allergic reaction to start.

Scabies is usually spread by close contact with another person who has scabies. Sometimes scabies is spread through shared towels, clothes, and bedding.

Scabies can be treated with medicine if you follow directions carefully. Usually everyone in the house needs to be treated. The medicine kills the mites within a day. But the itching commonly lasts for 2 to 4 weeks after treatment because the allergic reaction continues.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Use the medicine your doctor recommends or prescribes. Be sure to read and follow all instructions that come with the medicine. Two treatments may be needed to cure scabies.
  • Wash all clothes, bedding, and towels that your child and any other possibly infected person used in the 3 days before your child started treatment, including any stuffed animals. Use hot water, and use the hot cycle in the dryer. Another option is to dry-clean these items. Or seal them in a plastic bag for 3 days.
  • On the day your child starts treatment, vacuum the room or rooms used by anyone who had scabies.
  • Check with your doctor before you give your child any over-the-counter medicines to help stop itching.
  • Trim your child's fingernails, and keep your child's hands clean. This can keep your child from getting an infection from scratching.
  • Tell your child's school or day care if your child has scabies. Your child can return to child care or school the day after the first treatment has been completed.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has signs of a worsening infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from a bite area.
    • A fever.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.