Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition caused by a tiny mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. In children, it often presents distinct symptoms and requires careful management. Here are some key points about scabies in children:
- Transmission: Scabies is spread through close physical contact with an infected person. It’s common in crowded living conditions and can easily spread among family members or in schools and daycare centers.
- Symptoms: The main symptom is intense itching, which is often worse at night. In children, the rash can appear on the head, neck, face, palms, and soles of the feet – areas not commonly affected in adults. The rash consists of tiny blisters or pimples. In infants, scabies can also present as widespread, crusted lesions.
- Diagnosis: Diagnosis is usually made by examining the skin for signs of mites, such as burrows (tiny, irregular tracks in the skin). In some cases, a skin scraping may be taken to look for mites, eggs, or mite feces (scybala) under a microscope.
- Treatment: Scabies is typically treated with prescription creams and lotions, such as permethrin or lindane. These are applied to the entire body from the neck down and left on for a recommended period before washing off. Oral medications like ivermectin are also used in some cases.
- Management in Children: Due to their sensitive skin, treatment in children and infants often requires special consideration. For example, treatment may be applied to the entire head and neck in young children, an area usually avoided in adults.
- Prevention of Spread: Since scabies is highly contagious, all close contacts and family members of an infected child often need to be treated simultaneously, even if they are not showing symptoms. This helps prevent re-infestation.
- Environmental Measures: Alongside treatment, it’s important to wash clothing, bedding, and towels used by the infected person in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer. Items that can’t be washed may be sealed in a plastic bag for several days to a week to kill the mites.
- Follow-up: It’s common for itching to continue for several weeks after treatment due to an allergic reaction to the mites. However, new burrows or rashes should not appear if the treatment was effective. A follow-up with a healthcare provider may be necessary if symptoms persist or worsen.
- Complications: If left untreated, scabies can lead to more serious complications like impetigo (a bacterial skin infection), cellulitis, or systemic infection in severe cases.
It’s essential to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan if scabies is suspected in a child. Early treatment can help alleviate symptoms quickly and reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others.