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How Does Scabies Affect Children?

How Does Scabies Affect Children?

February 7, 2023
How Does Scabies Affect Children?

What is Scabies?


Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite that burrows into the upper layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The mite spreads by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has the condition. It is found worldwide and affects people of all races and social classes. Institutions such as nursing homes, extended-care facilities, and prisons are often sites of scabies outbreaks. Symptoms include:

  • Itching that often goes severe at night
  • Thin and wavy tunnels made up of tiny blisters
  • Bumps on the skin

How Soon Do the Symptoms Occur?

If your child has never had this condition before, symptoms may take 4 to 8 weeks to develop. It is important to remember that an infested person can spread scabies during this time regardless of the symptoms not yet showing. If your child had the condition before, symptoms usually appear much sooner in 1 to 4 days after exposure.

What are the Causes of Scabies?

Scabies is caused by a tiny, eight-legged mite. To lay eggs, the female mite burrows under the skin and makes a tunnel. After hatching, the mite larvae travel to the surface of the skin to mature. These mites can then spread to other areas of the skin or to the skin of other people. Itching is caused by the body’s allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs, and their waste. A person with scabies can spread the mites through close skin-to-skin contact and, less frequently, through sharing clothing or bedding.

How Does It Affect Children?

Scratching too much can break your child’s skin and cause an infection, such as impetigo. Impetigo is an infection on the skin’s surface that’s caused most often by staph bacteria. The crusted condition makes the skin hard and scaly and affects large areas of the body. It’s very contagious and can be hard to treat. This is extremely itchy, especially at night, or after a hot bath or shower. When children scratch the itchy areas, they can sometimes get secondary infections. 

When to Seek Help?

Seek immediate help if your child has trouble sleeping due to persistent itchiness caused by mites. Skin conditions such as dermatitis or eczema can also cause itching and small bumps on the skin. Your doctor can find the exact cause of the symptoms so that your child receives the right treatment. Antihistamines or nonprescription lotions may ease itching but they will not get rid of the mites or their eggs.

How to Prevent Scabies?

Clothes inside a washing machine on led lights
  • Wash all clothes and linen using hot water. Heat kills the mites and their eggs. 
  • Dry your clothes and linens with high heat. Dry-clean items you can’t wash at home.
  • Place items you can’t wash in sealed plastic bags and leave them away from any contact with your kids. Mites die after a few days without food.
  • It’s a good idea to clean your home to prevent scabies from spreading. Vacuum furniture, carpets, and floors to remove scales and crusts that may have scabies mites.
  • If your child got the mite, taking oral allergy pills or using nonprescription skin creams, such as calamine lotion, may help ease itching.

Treatment for Scabies

Treatment includes killing the mites and eggs with a medicated cream or pill. Several creams and lotions are available by prescription. Your doctor will likely ask you to apply the medication to your child’s whole body, from the neck down. Leave it on for at least 8 to 14 hours. Sometimes, you may have to apply the lotion twice to your child. More treatments may be needed if new symptoms appear.

Doctors may recommend Permethrin cream. It’s a treatment used for treating an infection caused by a parasite such as mites. It works by paralyzing and killing the bugs in your child’s body. It interferes with the protein synthesis of the mites and destroys the cell wall that is necessary for their survival. It also kills the egg and causes the remaining bacteria to die. The infection will not invade your child’s body and the rest you will become treated.

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