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How to Treat Scabies

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 8/30/2010

How to treat scabies can include treating everyone exposed to the patient and thoroughly washing bedding and towels. Learn about treatments for this highly contagious mite-caused condition.

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    A tiny mite called Sarcoptes scabiei burrows into the skin and causes itching. This condition is called scabies, and is contagious.

    How to treat scabies is about more than helping the patient with scabies; it is also about removing the mite exposure to prevent ongoing problems. When one person has scabies, their entire family, class at school or group at child care may need to be treated, as well.

    This is advised even if others do not have the symptoms because scabies can spread so quickly.

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    The Source

    Identifying the people in the patient’s group who have scabies and treating them all to avoid recurrence is important.

    Another important step is to clean thoroughly all possible sources of the mite, including towels and bedding.

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    Treatment Options

    Scabies needs to be treated via prescription medications. These medications can be in the form of pills or creams. This is because the strength of non-prescription medications is not usually strong enough to be effective.

    Some medications are safe for adults but not children, and some should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women. These risks should be discussed with the treating physician.

    Any prescription lotion or cream may be applied to the entire body and left on for a period of time between 8 and 14 hours before being washed away.

    Some possible prescriptions that may be used include Elimite, Eurax or Lindane. These medications kill the mite, but may not affect the itching caused by the mite. These medications differ from each other, so children and pregnant women have options, too.

    Antihistamines or corticosteroid creams may be recommended after the initial treatment, to help relieve the itching that may persist for weeks.

    Some patients may find relief from itching by using cool soaks or calamine lotion. A cool washcloth can be applied to itchy areas, as well, to help relieve the itching while recovering.

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    Length of Treatment

    Though treatment can last for as short a time period as 1 to 3 days, a recheck after several weeks have passed may be ordered in order to ensure the treatment has worked and the source has been treated, as well.

    Children in school or daycare are typically safe to return after treatment is complete, which could be a period of 1 to 3 days.

    It should be noted that even though the treatment period may be a matter of days, the itching can last for weeks following the treatment and killing of the mites.

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    Summary

    How to treat scabies is a multi-faceted process that addresses attacking the source, treating all of the patients and following up to ensure the condition is truly cleared up.

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    References

    Scabies – Topic Overview. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/scabies-topic-overview

    Scabies. Mayo Clinic Staff. March 30, 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/scabies/DS00451

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