DEAR DOCTOR K: My daughter picked up scabies at her day care center. How should I treat it? And what can I do to make sure she doesn’t get infected again?
DEAR READER: Scabies is a skin infestation by tiny, parasitic insects called mites. It causes intense itching. When a person catches scabies, female mites lay eggs in the person’s skin. The eggs hatch, the mites mate and lay more eggs.Basically, the person is the new home for the scabies mites. The person’s skin becomes the “nest” where the mothers raise their babies. However, the mothers are not very loyal; they’re always looking for a new home. In other words, scabies is very contagious.
Scabies mites can be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. They can also be transmitted through clothing, blankets, sheets, towels or furniture that has touched an infected person’s skin. It’s common for kids to catch scabies in day care centers or schools, where they are in close contact with other kids.
The doctor can prescribe various topical medications to treat your daughter’s scabies. These include permethrin (Nix, Elimite), lindane (Kwell, Scabene) and crotamiton (Eurax). If your daughter is an infant or otherwise sensitive to these medications, her doctor may recommend sulfur in petroleum.
In the meantime, to help control her itching, apply calamine lotion. If itching keeps her awake, ask her pediatrician about giving her diphenhydramine (Benadryl) by mouth. This medicine can help her sleep and reduce the itching, but some pediatrician colleagues of mine don’t like to prescribe this medicine to kids younger than 4 years old.
You and other family members must be treated for scabies as well, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
To help prevent your daughter from catching scabies again:
• Do not allow your daughter to share clothing or towels at her day care center.
• Provide a pillow and blanket from home that your daughter can use at the day care center.