How to Kill Scabies Mites on Skin and Clothes

When scabies strikes, wash everything.
When scabies strikes, wash everything. (Image: laundry image by timur1970 from

There's nothing like the word scabies to make you shudder. While they aren't life-threatening, the idea of little mites under one's skin is at the least unpleasant. While scabies is often thought of -- correctly -- as a sexually transmitted disease -- it can also come from laundry, clothes and non-sexual physical contact. In fact, it often spreads in jails and nursing homes, affecting staff along with everyone else. If you're unfortunate enough to come into contact with scabies, you want to get it off and out of you, your clothes and linens as soon as possible.

Gather all clothing and linens in the rooms and homes of anyone infected with scabies and wash them immediately in a washing machine with detergent. If possible, dry everything in a dryer on as high a heat as the clothing allows. Do the same with staff uniforms and personal clothing worn to work if scabies breaks out at a facility or institution.

Ask your dry cleaner if he will accept your non-water-washable clothes. While dry cleaning can kill scabies mites and their eggs, many dry cleaners will not take the risk of accepting infected clothing. Be ethical and always disclose.

Visit your physician to determine the correct scabies treatment for you. Most treatments are topical and several are safe for pregnant and nursing women. If you live with others, ensure that everyone gets treated -- even if they are asymptomatic. Scabies spreads quickly and the Centers for Disease Control strongly recommends everyone in a contact group undergo treatment as scabies has an incubation period before symptoms appear.

Apply Lindane or Permethrin 5 percent (brand name Elimite) in two treatments, spaced a week apart. These are the most common prescriptions. Permethrin comes only in cream form while Lindane also comes in lotion and shampoo forms.

Use Crotamiton (brand name Eurax) on your baby or young children if they are affected. This non-chemical treatment requires daily skin application for two to five days.

Take ivermectin (brand name Stromectol) if other treatments fail or your scabies advances to the point where it's crusted. Your doctor will likely use this only as a last resort, unless you have a complicating medical condition which makes topical treatment inadvisable.

Apply soothing lotions like Calamine and take antihistamines to soothe symptomatic skin. The redness and itch is a result of an allergic reaction people have to bugs burrowing in their skin. The allergic reaction will likely last for awhile after the scabies mites are eliminated.

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