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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 3 minutes read

Scabies is an infection from a mite that produces an itch like no other - you (and family members) will be furiously scratching, especially at night. The mite (fancy name: Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis) burrows under your skin, causing very subtle but characteristic grey "track marks" towards a more defined skin mark.

The skin mark may be a tiny red bump (a papule), or may appear as a fluid-filled blister or a pus-filled bump (a pustule). The mite's favourite hide-outs include the webs between fingers, the palms, wrists and forearms, the chest and breasts, and the genitals.

Doctor’s advice

Is it contagious?

Scabies is a highly contagious infestation and it is important that you seek prompt treatment, alongside your nearest and dearest, even if they are showing no symptoms, as it can take up to 8 weeks after exposure to show signs. Itching can carry on for weeks after treatment but should gradually improve.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

There are insecticide topical products that can treat scabies available at the pharmacy.


Lyclear dermal cream contains the active ingredient permethrin, an insecticide that treats scabies and crab lice. The cream should be applied over the whole body the permethrin kills the parasites by poisoning them.

A little goes a long way, and the 30 gram tube usually cover the whole body for most people. Pay particular attention to the crevices such as between fingers, underarms, and avoid near the eyes, nose and mouth. Leave on overnight for best results and wash off after 8 to 12 hours. A single application can sometimes be sufficient for successful treatment. However, some experts recommend a repeat treatment after 7-14 days for extra precaution. The treatment can be repeated after 7-14 days to kill any scabies mites that have survived or that have emerged from eggs.

Derbac M

An alternative to Lyclear dermal cream is Dermac M lotion, which contains a different insecticide and is also suitable for head lice, crab lice, as well as scabies mites. Being a lotion, it is somewhat easier to apply than a cream, especially over hairier areas of skin!

Apply Derbac M Lotion to the entire skin surface. In adults, it may not be necessary to apply above the neck. If used in children under the age of 2 years, a thin film of the liquid should be applied to the scalp, face and ears, avoiding the eyes and mouth. Do not wash the lotion off or bathe for 24 hours. If hands or any other parts must be washed during this period, the treatment must be reapplied to those areas immediately. The treatment should be repeated after 7 days.

It is also advisable to wash bed linen at a high temperature, ideally 60 degrees Celsius or above to prevent re-infestation.

Please note that with both insecticide treatments, those with sensitive skin may experience temporary itching due to the potential irritant nature of the chemical insecticides used. Mild itch persisting after treatment may therefore be a side effect, rather than an indication of failed treatment. In such cases, you may find using an antihistamine tablet useful to calm any mild itch or irritation.

Am I fit for work?

You should stay off work until 24 hours after you have completed scabies treatment, to avoid infecting others.

When should I see my doctor?

If you think you have scabies, you and your household should start treatment urgently - you can see your pharmacist to buy a cream or book an urgent appointment with your doctor. Your household may be advised to repeat the treatment a week later.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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