Scabies In Kids: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

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Scabies in kids is caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabei var hominis. The mite creates burrows in the human skin for reproduction. When affected by Sarcoptes, the skin turns hypersensitive, and the body’s immune response gives rise to uncomfortable, itchy pimple-like rashes and blisters on the skin  (1). Scabies spread quickly in public places, making children more susceptible to it. Thus, even if one child catches scabies in the neighborhood or school, it puts the other children and their families at the risk of contracting it.

Read on to know about scabies causes, risk factors, symptoms, complications, treatment for scabies in children, and the preventative measures to avoid the spread of infection.

In This Article

Is Scabies Contagious?

Scabies in kids can transmit rapidly

Image: Shutterstock

Yes, scabies, a parasitic infection, is a highly contagious disease that spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Thus, children who come into contact with a child who has the infestation at schools or child care centers are at a high risk of getting the infestation (2).

A child could also get scabies by sharing clothes, utensils, bed linens, or even toys with another child who has the infestation. The mites could survive on non-living items for two to three days. Thus, even one person with scabies can cause a scabies outbreak in an area (3).

What Are The Causes And Risk Factors For Scabies?

Overcrowded living conditions can lead to scabies transmission

Image: Shutterstock

Scabies is a skin infestation caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei var hominis. The scabies mites bury themselves under the skin to lay eggs. This scabies infestation triggers the body’s immune system and causes skin inflammation, redness, itchiness, and bumps on the skin (4) (5).

All children are at risk for scabies as they tend to be in group settings. Poor hygiene and overcrowded living conditions also pose a risk for scabies. According to the World Health Organization, 5% to 50% of children living in such conditions are prone to getting scabies. Children with compromised immunity may show a severe reaction towards it (3) (5) (6).

What Are The Symptoms Of Scabies?

Itchy rashes, pimples, and blisters are the common symptoms of scabies. The symptoms of scabies may appear four to six weeks after the child comes into contact with an infected person.

The common itchy and affected regions for scabies in children include the following (2).

  • Between the fingers
  • Armpits
  • Wrists

    Scabies lesions may be seen on wrists

    Image: Shutterstock

  • Abdomen; primarily near the belt-line and belly button
  • Thighs
  • Chest area
  • Groin area
  • Hands
  • Buttocks
  • Back of the knees
  • Private parts

The intensely itchy sensation may increase at night or after a hot water bath.

In some rare cases, crusted scabies, which are characterized by widespread scale and crust, may be seen in children with a weak immune system. Children with crusted scabies require immediate medical care (1).

protip_icon Quick fact
In children below two years, the rash usually occurs on the head, neck, palms, and soles of the feet (2).

What Are The Complications Of Scabies?

The intense itch caused by the scabies rash could lead to severe skin sores. Also, untreated scabies may attract several bacteria, particularly Staphylococcus aureus. This can lead to skin infections such as sepsis of the skin. In addition, if left unchecked, scabies could cause post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis and rheumatic heart disease (1) (7).

protip_icon Quick fact
The scabies itch may persist up to six weeks. It is often due to the allergic response that continues after the infection has been successfully treated. Calamine lotion may help reduce the discomfort (14).

How Is Scabies Diagnosed?

A dermatologist will diagnose scabies in children

Image: Shutterstock

The diagnosis for scabies involves a physical examination followed by a microscopic analysis of the skin. Your child’s healthcare provider may scrape the skin a little (it is a painless procedure) to screen them under a microscope and determine the presence of mites and their eggs (2).

What Is The Treatment For Scabies?

The doctor may prescribe topical ointments

Image: Shutterstock

Effective treatment for scabies primarily focuses on killing the parasite while simultaneously healing the skin. A Scabicide cream, primarily Permethrin (5%), is usually prescribed for scabies in children older than two months of age. Other common medications administered for scabies include crotamiton cream (10%), benzyl benzoate lotion (25%), sulfur ointment (5-10%), and lindane lotion (1%).The most common side effect of benzyl benzoate is skin irritation after a few minutes of application. Therefore, do a patch test before application and report to your doctor in case of allergy.

The healthcare provider may also prescribe antibiotics and antihistamines to fight bacterial infection and help the child manage the itch (8) (9) (10).

protip_icon Quick tip
Trim your child’s finger nails to prevent scratching and infecting the rashes (2).

Can Scabies Be Prevented?

Scabies is a highly contagious parasitic infestation. So, preventing it altogether may not be possible. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the following measures to reduce the spread of scabies among children (11).

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
  • Machine-wash all the clothes and bed linens used three days before the diagnosis of scabies. Ensure that these items are hot-water washed separately and dry-cleaned.
  • Seal non-washable items such as soft toys in a plastic bag and leave them for three days to starve the mites.
  • Do not send children with scabies to school for about a week.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where does scabies usually start?

Scabies usually develops in the body crevices, such as the beltline and the area around the nipples, penis, and buttocks (12).

2. Can scabies go away on their own?

No, scabies does not resolve on its own but requires treatment to stop the spread and alleviate the symptoms (13).

3. Does calamine lotion work for scabies?

Dr. Neema Shrestha, a consultant pediatrician and neonatologist, says, “People infected by scabies can have severe itching, making it difficult for them to perform daily activities. Since calamine lotion has a soothing and antipruritic action on the skin, it can help alleviate itching caused by scabies. It is also considered safe in children and small babies.”

4. How can parents access resources and support for managing scabies in their children?

Parents can seek help and support in managing scabies in their children by reaching out to their child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

5. Which soap is used for scabies in babies?

The treatment of scabies in infants typically involves medicated creams or lotions instead of using specific soaps. Consult a healthcare provider for proper guidance on specific soaps to treat scabies in children.

Scabies in kids is a contagious disease that spreads rapidly in public places. Wrists, armpits, the chest area, groin area, thighs, buttocks, and private parts are more commonly affected. Scabies can lead to complications such as skin sores, and if untreated, it can also result in sepsis of the skin and rheumatic heart disease. Scabies can be treated through medications, creams, and antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. Further, the preventive measures suggested by the CDC will help prevent the spread of this disease among children.

Infographic: Home Management Of Scabies In Children

Scabies needs management and does not self-resolve. Check out this infographic, where we enlist some effective, medically researched, safe home remedies for scabies. Consult your doctor before trying these home remedies for children.

home remedies of scabies in children (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Scabies is a mite-caused infection that presents with typical itchy rashes and blisters in various body parts of a child.
  • Topical creams and ointments are effective in treating scabies.
  • If left untreated, scabies could lead to serious conditions, like sepsis.
  • To prevent scabies, seal soft toys in plastic bags to starve mites, avoid contact with infected people, and do not let your child out if they are diagnosed with scabies.

Scabies is a contagious infection in children caused by parasites. Watch this video to gain insights into the signs, diagnosis, causes, and treatment.

References

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  1. About scabies.
    https://controlscabies.org/about-scabies
  2. Scabies in Children.
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P01921
  3. Scabies in Children.
    https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=scabies-in-children-90-P01921
  4. Parasites – Scabies.
    https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/index.html
  5. Scabies: Who gets and causes.
    https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/scabies-causes
  6. Scabies.
    https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/scabies
  7. About scabies.
    https://controlscabies.org/about-scabies
  8. Lina Albakri and Ran D. Goldman; (2010); Permethrin for scabies in children.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2954078/
  9. Scabies: Diagnosis and treatment.
    https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/scabies-treatment
  10. Parasites – Scabies – Treatment.
    https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/treatment.html
  11. Parasites – Scabies – Prevention & Control.
    https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/prevent.html
  12. Scabies.
    https://www.aocd.org/page/Scabies
  13. Scabies.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4567-scabies#:~:text=No%2C%20scabies%20won’t%20go
  14. Scabies.
    https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/a-z-health-reference/scabies
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