Scabies is a very itchy rash caused by a mite (bug) that lives on the skin. Learn about scabies and how to treat it.

What are Scabies?

Scabies is a very itchy rash caused by a mite (bug) that lives on the skin. Scabies is not harmful. It does not carry other diseases, but people can develop infections from scratching the rash.

How is Scabies Spread?

Scabies is spread in 2 ways:

  • Person-to-person contact. This is the most common way scabies is spread. It is when a person with scabies touches another person.
  • Through clothing or bedding with the mite. This is not as common.

What are Common Symptoms of Scabies?

  • Very itchy, red bumps on the skin
  • Small tunnels or paths on the skin where the mite bit the skin

How Do Doctors Diagnose Scabies?

Your dermatologist (skin doctor) will do a skin scape to look at a small piece of your child’s skin under a microscope. The skin scrape does not hurt and takes less than 1 minute to do. Looking under the microscope takes about 10-15 minutes.

How Do I Treat Scabies?

Scabies is treated in 2 ways. Here are some important things to know scabies treatment:

Prescription creams

For babies, apply the cream from head to toe. This includes the scalp, under nails, between fingers and toes, around the genitals and between the buttocks.

For children, teens and adults, apply the cream from the neck down. This includes the belly button, between fingers and toes, under the nails, around the genitals and between the buttocks. You and your family might feel itchy from the cream. This is normal. The cream works well even if you feel itchy.

Leave the cream on overnight. Wash it off 8-14 hours after applying it. You will get a second prescription cream 7-10 days after the first one. Everyone in your family will use the prescription cream whether they have a rash or not. The cream helps prevent scabies from spreading. Pets do not have to be treated.

Other treatment tips

  • Wash your family’s clothes, bedding and towels in hot water. Dry them on high heat. The cream will not stain fabric, but the high heat from the washer and dryer will kill the mites.
  • Put things you cannot wash in an airtight bag for 10 days. This will help kill the mites.
Rev. 10/2017. Reviewed by the MGfC Family Advisory Council. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.