Recovering From Scabies: What to Expect

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Scabies is a skin condition caused by microscopic mites. It is characterized by an itchy rash that is often worse at night.

Medical treatment can cure scabies, but full recovery takes a while. How long scabies takes to heal depends on the extent of the infestation and damage to the skin from scratching. It can take 2 to 4 weeks for the rash to clear and itching to stop. Learn what to expect during scabies recovery.

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Scabies Treatment 

Healthcare professionals can often diagnose scabies by visual examination and the patient’s description of symptoms. Most people with scabies report intense itching and have a pimply rash. To confirm the diagnosis before beginning treatment, a doctor may scrape the skin and examine the sample under a microscope to check for mites. Sometimes, a doctor can perform scabies mite removal using the tip of a needle.

Medical treatment is necessary to kill the mites that cause scabies and their eggs. Your healthcare professional will prescribe a special cream or lotion that you apply to the skin. You put it on all the areas of the body, from the neck down to the toes, including the creases behind the ears, under the breasts, behind the knees, between all fingers and toes, and beneath toenails and fingernails. If treating scabies in children, apply the cream on the head and neck.

You usually apply the medicine before bed and wash it off with soap and water in the morning. You will probably need to apply a second dose of the cream in about one week. (In some cases, you reapply the treatment every 2 to 3 days over a period of weeks.) Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

Because the mites that cause scabies can easily travel from one person to another, all household members and sexual partners of the infected person should undergo treatment. You will have to thoroughly wash and dry all clothing, bedding, and towels as well, to ensure that all mites and eggs are killed; otherwise, reinfestation is possible. The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends vacuuming your entire home.

Scabies Recovery 

Scabies treatment does not cause instant relief. The rash and itching associated with scabies can persist for up to one month after treatment. In most cases, itching resolves in about two weeks. Scabies rashes typically heal in about two weeks as well.

You can use over-the-counter medicine and anti-itching cream to alleviate your symptoms. Apply 1% hydrocortisone cream as needed (up to three times per day) to itchy areas. You can also take an oral allergy medication, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or cetirizine (Zyrtec). Follow the dosing instructions on the packaging. Applying a cool compress to the rash may relieve itching as well.

If scratching the scabies rash causes sores, you can apply antibiotic cream to prevent infection. Covering the area with a bandage may help prevent further scratching.

Individuals with scabies should remain home from school or work until at least 24 hours after treatment with prescription scabies cream.

If the rash or itching gets worse instead of better, or if symptoms persist after one month contact your healthcare professional. Additional treatment may be necessary.

Scabies recovery often takes longer than people expect. With treatment, though, most people recover fully with no complications.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Dec 13
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