Scabies is caused by a tiny insect known as a mite which digs under the skin and lays eggs. Small blisters grow on the skin above each egg and the skin gets very itchy.


Key points to remember about scabies

  • Thumbnail image of a pamphletscabies is caused by a tiny insect known as a mite which digs under the skin and lays eggs
  • small blisters grow on the skin above each egg and the skin gets very itchy
  • the redness and small blisters look like a rash on the skin
  • the scabies rash may start anywhere but it is usually between fingers, on wrists, inside the elbow, around the waist, on the bottom or private parts and under armpits

What to do if your child has scabies

Go to your doctor, school nurse or public health nurse

Go to a doctor or call the school nurse or public health nurse to get an insecticide (you say, insect-a-side) cream to kill the mites. If your child is under 2 years old, they may need a different treatment so make sure you check with your doctor or nurse

Treat everyone in the household

Get enough cream to treat everyone in the household. Everyone should be treated even if they don't have a rash or itch.

Cream for everyone on the same day

Apply cream to everyone in the family or household on the same day.

Apply cream all over

The cream has to go all over the body, from head to toe - including the soles of feet.

Leave overnight

The cream must be left on overnight.

Wash linen in hot water

On the same day as putting the cream on everyone you also need to wash all sheets, pillow cases, towels and clothes in hot water – or you need to put these things into a sealed plastic bag for 5 days to kill the mites. If you don't do these things, the mites will reinfect your family.

Hang blankets outside

Hang quilts, duvets and blankets outside for a day so the sun can kill any mites.

Check all family members

Check other family members for scabies.

What to do if scabies gets worse

Once you have killed the scabies mites with the cream, the sores or the rash will stop growing but it will still be itchy for up to 4 weeks.

The sores and rash can become infected.

Read about cellulitis

Go to the doctor if the sores or rash get redder, warm, start swelling or have pus. This could be cellulitis.

You may also need to repeat the treatment of the whole family with the insecticide cream.

If your child's scabies has turned to cellulitis, your child may need blood tests and antibiotics.

It is important to take the antibiotics every day until they are finished, even if the scabies has cleared up earlier. The antibiotics need to keep killing the infection in the body after the skin has healed.

How is scabies spread?

Scabies is spread by skin contact with the infected person, and sharing sheets and clothes.

Should I keep my child home from kura or school if they have scabies?

Your child should stay at home until at least one day after treatment with the insecticide cream.

Source: Workbase and Ministry of Health printout (PDF, 189KB)

This page last reviewed 03 August 2018.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it