Scabies is an itchy rash spread by direct contact with the infection or by the mites themselves. The mites burrow beneath the skin and lay their eggs causing irritation to the skin in raised itchy bumps.
Scabies is passed through skin to skin contact and is therefore easily transmitted. It can often reach epidemic form in an institution or orphanage or even a household. It can also be passed through clothing or bedding if the mites remain on it, but this is less common.
The infection does not always show symptoms immediately but is extremely common in orphanages, so any international adoptee should be watched for scabies even after they arrive in their new homes.
Scabies appears most frequently on the:
- Palms of hands
- Between the fingers or toes
- Soles of feet
- Behind the ear
- Genital areas
- In any creases or folds of the skin
The lesions are difficult to recognize and are often misdiagnosed as something else such as insect bites, syphilis, allergic reaction, or eczema. Because the lesions are itchy, children often scratch until they bleed. As the rupture heals, other infections could enter the body. Also, the scab disguises the bumps and makes it harder to diagnose.
For infants and small children, scabies is treated with a topical cream, which is applied generously over the entire body, focusing on every crevice possible. One type of cream is 5% permethrin lotion (Elimite) and can be used on even young infants. After about 8 hours the cream should be washed off and clean clothes and bedding should be used to avoid reinfection.
This resource is by no means intended as a substitute for a doctor's advice or diagnosis. Any concerns you may have with regard to your child's health and development should be discussed with a professional in an appropriate field.