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Scabies in Children


Scabies in Children

What is scabies?

Scabies is an infestation of mites called Sarcoptes scabiei (tiny insects). Scabies is characterized by small red bumps and intense itching. This highly contagious infection often spreads from person to person while they are sleeping together in the same bed or have close personal contact. The itching is caused by the mites burrowing into the skin where they lay eggs that hatch a few days later. Scabies can affect people of all ages. Scabies happens mostly in children and young adults.

What are the symptoms of scabies?

It may take between 4 to 6 weeks for a child to develop symptoms of scabies after coming in contact with an infected person.

In children younger than 2 years of age, the lesions caused by the mites tend to happen on the head, neck, palms, and soles. In older children, the lesions are usually on the hands, between the fingers, wrists, belt line, thighs, belly button, in the groin area, around the breasts, and in the armpits.

The following are the most common symptoms of scabies. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Itching, usually severe

  • Rash, with small pimples or red bumps; sometimes burrows can be seen

  • Skin breakage and infection from scratching

  • Scaly or crusty skin (with advanced conditions)

How is scabies diagnosed?

In diagnosing scabies, the skin and skin crevices are examined by your child's health care provider. A sample of skin, obtained by scraping the skin, may be examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of mites, or their eggs.

What is the treatment for scabies?

Scabies is treatable and usually all members in a family are treated at the same time. Specific treatment will be decided by your child's health care provider based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the infestation

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the infestation

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Applications of prescription creams and lotions, like permethrin, crotamiton, and lindane solutions

  • Oral antihistamine medicine (to help relieve itching)

  • In some cases, additional topical ointments are recommended

  • In severe cases, an oral antiparasitic medicine (Ivermectin) may be used

  • Often, others living in the household may be treated to prevent reinfection

In addition, it is important to wash all clothes and bedding in hot water and dry in a hot dryer. Clothing and other objects that cannot be washed (for example, pillows and stuffed animals) should be placed in a plastic bag for at least 1 week.

The itching may continue for many weeks after the initial treatment of the scabies. If it is still present after this time, or if new burrows (which look like tiny wavy lines, often seen between the fingers) appear, retreatment may be needed and your health care provider should be called.   

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