What Are Scabicides?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2020
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Scabicides are medications that are used to eradicate the scabies mite, which causes a scabies rash in infected people. Typically, a doctor will prescribe permethrin cream, but other scabicides may be used, such as crotamiton or ivermectin. These drugs are insecticides that are applied topically to the skin in order to kill the scabies mites. Patients may be advised to apply the scabicides twice to ensure that all the mites have been killed.

Those who experience persistent itching or small, red bumps on the skin should see their doctors as soon as possible. Scabies may also present with very small, grey tracks, especially between the fingers, which are caused by the burrowing mites. Lumps or nodules, as well as crusted rashes can also indicate scabies. Everyone who has come into physical or sexual contact with a person infected with scabies must also undergo treatment with scabicides, because it is highly contagious.

Some patients may need multiple applications of scabicides. Those who are prescribed benzyl benzoate lotion will need to apply it every day for three consecutive days. Other scabicides may require reapplication one week or two weeks following the first dose. Before applying the medicine, the patient will likely be instructed to bathe and dry themselves. They must also thoroughly clean their homes and launder all bedding and clothes to avoid becoming infected again.


The patient should disrobe and apply the scabicide cream to all areas of skin, from the neck down. Certain patients may be given special instructions for use on the facial area, but this is usually not necessary. The patient must be careful to massage the cream into the soles of the feet, between the fingers and toes, and in all other areas. He must leave the medicine on his skin for the prescribed length of time, which is typically eight to 14 hours for permethrin cream, or 24 hours for malathion lotion. If any hygiene activities remove any of the cream, it must be reapplied promptly.

After waiting the proper length of time, the patient should wash himself thoroughly to remove the cream. It is relatively common to experience itching following the treatment, and this does not mean that the scabicides failed to work. Scabies nodules may linger for several months, even if the infection is completely cleared up. Some patients have also reported persistent rashes, which may be alleviated by topical steroid drugs.

Before using any scabicides, patients should disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss the potential risks with their doctors. These drugs may not be appropriate for use by very young children.


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