Children's Hospital Colorado


Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • A very itchy rash caused by the scabies mite
  • A mite is a tiny, invisible bug that burrows under the skin
  • A doctor has told you your child has scabies or
  • Your child has had close contact with another person who has it

Symptoms of Scabies

  • Widespread little red, bumpy rash that mainly involves the skin folds.
  • Intense itching is the main symptom. If it doesn't itch, it's not scabies.
  • Appearance. The small red bumps are often in short straight or wavy lines. These are the burrows/tunnels of the mite. The bump or water blister is where the mite entered the skin.
  • Location. Classic scabies is found in skin creases such as finger webs. Hands and wrists are the most common sites. Armpits, groin, scrotum, buttocks, navel, waist, and ankles can be involved.
  • The face and neck are usually spared. In infants, the rash can involve the face and scalp.
  • The rash usually looks the same on both sides of the body.

Cause of Scabies

  • Scabies mite
  • Scabies comes from skin-to-skin contact with someone who has scabies.
  • After contact, a person will come down with scabies rash in 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Itching is the first symptom.
  • The rash and itching are the body's allergic reaction to mites in the skin.
  • Can occur in anyone and does not mean poor hygiene.
  • Scabies mites do not carry any disease.

Prevention of Spread to Others

  • Scabies is very contagious and prevention is difficult.
  • It's best to treat everyone who has had close contact.

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Spreading red area or streak with fever
  • Your child looks or acts very sick

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Spreading red area or streak, but no fever
  • You think your child needs to be seen

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • Your child had close contact with someone with scabies and not treated
  • Yellow soft scab that drains pus or gets bigger, not better with antibiotic ointment
  • Severe itching not better after 48 hours of steroid cream and allergy medicine
  • Rash goes away with treatment and then returns
  • After 4 weeks, itch is still present
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Scabies infection

Care Advice for Scabies

  1. What You Should Know About Scabies:
    • Scabies are easy to treat. Itching is the problem.
    • The itching normally lasts for 2 weeks after the scabies mites are killed.
    • Treatment with the anti-scabies cream does not help the itch.
    • The itching is an allergic reaction. The body reacts to the dead mites and eggs in the skin. It continues until all the skin containing the dead mites is shed. This usually takes 2 weeks.
    • Continuing to have the itch does not mean that the treatment didn't work. It also doesn't mean that it needs to be repeated.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Treating Close Contacts:
    • Scabies is easily spread to others. The symptoms don't start for an average of 30 days.
    • Therefore, everyone living in the house should be treated before they develop a rash.
    • Close contacts only need to be treated once with the scabies cream.
  3. Anti-Scabies Medicine (Prescription):
    • Scabies is treated with a prescription cream. (Currently, the most common product is Elimite).
    • If applied correctly, it's almost 100% effective at curing scabies.
    • Apply the cream from the chin to the toes. Cover every square inch of the body. Don't forget the navel, between the toes, under the fingernails and all the creases.
    • Areas that don't seem infected still need to be covered with the cream.
    • Caution: Infants less than 1 year old also need the cream applied to the head. Put it on the scalp, forehead, temples, ears and neck. Avoid putting it around the eyes and mouth.
    • Bedtime is usually the best time to apply it.
    • Eight to 12 hours later give your child a bath with warm water. This will remove the cream.
    • One treatment is usually effective. For severe rashes, repeat the treatment 1 week later.
    • Approved for as young as 2 months old.
  4. Steroid Cream for Itching:
    • For relief of itching, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream (such as Cortaid). No prescription is needed.
    • Do this 3 times per day to the most itchy spots.
  5. Allergy Medicine for Itching:
    • For severe itching, an oral allergy medicine (such as Benadryl) should help.
    • Age Over 1 Year: Give Benadryl 4 times per day. No prescription is needed.
    • Age Over 2 Years: Another option is to give cetirizine (such as Zyrtec) each morning. Use Benadryl at bedtime. No prescription is needed.
  6. Cool Baths for Itching:
    • For flare-ups of itching, give your child a cool or lukewarm bath. Bathe for 10 minutes.
    • Can add baking soda 2 ounces (60 mL) per tub.
    • Avoid all soaps. Reason: Soaps make the itching worse.
  7. Cut Nails for Itching:
    • Discourage scratching.
    • Cut the fingernails short. Reason: Prevents a skin infection from bacteria.
  8. Cleaning the House:
    • Live scabies mites are in clothing your child has worn in the last 3 days.
    • Machine wash all your child's sheets, pillowcases, underwear, pajamas, and other recently worn clothing. Use hot water. High dryer temps also kill mites.
    • Put items that can't be washed (such as blankets) into plastic bags. You need to keep them in the bags for 4 days to kill the mites. Scabies cannot live off the human skin for more than 3 days.
  9. What to Expect:
    • One treatment with a prescription anti-scabies cream usually helps. This usually kills all the scabies mites and eggs. Make sure you leave it on for 8-12 hours.
    • The rash will heal up and go away in 2 weeks. There shouldn't be any new rash after treatment.
    • The itching may last up to 4 weeks. Reason: It's an allergic reaction to the dead scabies.
  10. Return to School:
    • Your child can return 24 hours after one treatment with the anti-scabies cream.
  11. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Rash looks infected (draining pus, scabs become larger)
    • Itching becomes worse or lasts over 4 weeks
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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