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Scabies: treating scabies skin disease

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Treatment

Scabies treatment involves eliminating the infestation with medications. Several creams and lotions are available with a doctor’s prescription.

Your doctor will likely ask you to apply the medication to your whole body, from the neck down, and leave the medication on for at least eight to 10 hours. Some treatments require a second application, and treatments need to be repeated if new burrows and a rash appear.

Because scabies spreads so easily, your doctor will likely recommend treatment for all household members and other close contacts, even if they show no signs of scabies infestation.

Medications commonly prescribed for scabies include:

  • Permethrin cream (Elimite). Permethrin is a topical cream that contains chemicals that kill scabies mites and their eggs. It is generally considered safe for adults, pregnant women, and children ages 2 months and older.
  • Lindane lotion. This medication — also a chemical treatment — is recommended only for people who can’t tolerate other approved treatments or for whom other treatments didn’t work. This medication isn’t safe for children younger than age 10 years, women who are pregnant or nursing, or anyone who weighs less than 110 pounds (50 kilograms).
  • Crotamiton (Eurax). This medication is available as a cream or a lotion. It’s applied once a day for two days. The safety of this medication hasn’t been established in children, adults 65 and older, or women who are pregnant or nursing. Frequent treatment failure has been reported with crotamiton.
  • Ivermectin (Stromectol). Doctors may prescribe this oral medication for people with altered immune systems, for people who have crusted scabies, or for people who don’t respond to the prescription lotions and creams. Ivermectin isn’t recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing, or for children who weigh less than 33 pounds (15 kilograms).

Although these medications kill the mites promptly, you may find that the itching doesn’t stop entirely for several weeks.

Doctors may prescribe other topical medications, such as sulfur compounded in petrolatum, for people who don’t respond to or can’t use these medications.

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