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Permethrin Cream

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

Permethrin cream is one of only a few over-the-counter medications that can be bought for the treatment of scabies. Scabies is a parasitic infestation, where mites burrow beneath the outer layers of the skin, laying eggs and spreading along the entire body. This leaves spots and blisters along the body, often in “track” or “silver” lines. You may experience intense itching, especially at night. It can affect anywhere on the body, but usually affects skin creases, such as between fingers or toes.

Who is it for?

If you experience or show some of these symptoms or signs above then you may have scabies. Once confirmed treatment can start. It is suitable above 2 months of age, however up to the age of 2 years treatment requires medical supervision. It only comes as a 30g cream, however this is usually enough to completely clear scabies. If left untreated scabies can lead to skin infections which can have more serious complications.

How does it work?

The active ingredient in the cream is permethrin. It is an anti-parasitic agent. Once the cream is applied to the skin it will get absorbed to the upper layers of the skin where the mites are based. The permethrin thereafter works by binding to the nerve cells on mites. This causes delayed action of important cells in the mite, leading to their paralysis and eventual eradication.

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How to apply it

For children under 2 years apply the cream over the whole body INCLUDING the face and scalp. Pay particular attention to the areas between fingers and toes, under nails, wrists, armpits, palms of hands and soles of feet, genitals and buttocks. For adults and children over the age of 2 apply the cream over the whole body but NOT the face and scalp. For the elderly apply the cream over the whole body INCLUDING the face and scalp.

The treatment needs to be kept on between 8-12 hours. Reapply the cream to the hands if they are washed within 8 hours of treatment. A second course may be needed after a week.

Do’s and don’ts during treatment

Scabies typically spreads through prolonged skin contact, therefore, they can be passed easily between family members or sexual partners. Avoid sexual intercourse if you or your partner thinks they may have scabies.

During treatment ensure you wash all bedding and clothing in the house at 50°C or higher on the first day of treatment. Ensure babies and children do not suck treatment from their hands by putting socks or mittens on them. Anytime anyone washes their hands ensure they reapply permethrin.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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