Top Over-the-Counter Scabies Treatments and Medications

How to Treat Scabies
How to Treat Scabies

What is Scabies?

  • Cause: Scabies is a skin condition caused by mites living in your skin. It's specifically caused by female Sarcoptes scabiei who burrow into skin in order to lay their eggs. The symptoms are actually an allergic reaction to the mites.
  • Symptoms: Scabies is also known as the seven-year-itch. It shows up as an itchy, pimply rash with occasional tracks or "burrows" from mites digging around. Itching worsens at night and in hot temperatures.
  • Transmission: After infection, the symptoms may not show up for two to six weeks. It's transmitted through prolonged skin contact including sex and can also be transmitted through sharing or clothes or sheets. Since scabies spreads so fast, your physician may suggest treatment for sexual partners and members of your household even if they show no signs of infestation
  • Treatment: Scabies treatment requires specific medication, which you can get either over the counter or prescribed by a doctor. You generally apply a cream or lotion based drug all over your body from the neck down and leave it on for at least eight hours.

Common sites of scabies infestations
Common sites of scabies infestations

Scabies Medications

There are three top medications for scabies prescribed by trusted doctors around the world.

  1. Crotamiton
  2. Permethrin
  3. Lindane

This article will give you some information about each and then provide general advice about treatment and symptom management.

If you have scabies, go to the doctor!

Laws regarding these scabies medications differ from state to state and country to country. They may not be available over the counter where you live (or they may only be available in a diluted form). A doctor will be able to prescribe the right medication for you.

1. Crotamiton (Eurax)

Crotamiton medicinal lotion
Crotamiton medicinal lotion

Crotamiton is a drug that is used as a scabicidal (for treating scabies) and an antipruritic. It is a fairly harmless over-the-counter cream that is safe for children and people with low immune systems. Like most scabies medications, it is applied topically.

Use: For treatment of scabies, apply this medicinal lotion over your entire body (avoiding the face) two to three times total with a 24 hour period between applications. For best results, do not shower until 48 hours after applying this medication. For children under 3 years, it is applied once daily.

2. Permethrin 5% (Elimite)

Permethrin is a topical scabicidal agent for the treatment of scabies.
Permethrin is a topical scabicidal agent for the treatment of scabies.

Permethrin is used widely as an insecticide and insect repellent. It's considered the treatment of choice for children and for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and is considered safe for infants as young as two months old.

Use: This cream should only need to be used one: apply it over your whole body from the neck down and don't wash it off for about 12 hours. If necessary, your doctor may recommend that you apply this cream twice, with a week between each application.

3. Lindane

Lindane is a chemical variant and treatment for lice and scabies.
Lindane is a chemical variant and treatment for lice and scabies.

Lindane is a chemical variant that has been used both as an agricultural insecticide and as a pharmaceutical treatment for lice and scabies. Unfortunately, there are some health hazards involved and it generally only used when other scabies medications have failed.

Use: This drug is offered as a shampoo, lotion, and cream. Follow the directions on the bottle and make sure to ask your doctor. Lindane should only be applied once. This drug is not safe for kids younger than 2 years of age, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or individuals with weak immune systems.

Scabies of the arm.
Scabies of the arm. | Source

I Took the Medicine. Why Do I Still Itch?

Even though these medicine eradicate the mites quickly, itching does not end completely for more than a few weeks. Symptoms will temporarily worsen before they improve because the waste and corpses of the scabies dying off creates even more irritation. Have patience! Though it may not feel like it, your worsening symptoms are a good sign that you are on the road to recovery.

If a few weeks have passed and your symptoms are still not improving, you may have a weakened immune system and need to see a doctor. Doctors sometimes prescribe Ivermectin, an oral medication, for patients with distorted immune systems, who have thick scabies, or who do not react to the medicated creams and lotions.

Home Remedies and Further Tips

While home remedies will not cure an infestation, they can prevent infection and heal lesions.

  1. Neem and turmeric: Rinse the skin with a paste made half from new or dry neem leaves and half from turmeric powder mixed with mustard oil. Apply the paste on your body and leave it for no less than an hour before rinsing. Repeat for 7 to 10 days until all scratches have healed.
  2. Apricot leaves: Likewise, scabies symptoms can be alleviated by using the juice of new apricot leaves, which will soothe the skin and prevent infection.


  1. Shower before treatment: Make sure to wash thoroughly before starting treatment so you can apply the medication to clean, dry, skin.
  2. Wash your sheets: Mites can survive away from human skin for up to a few days. Wash your sheets and clothing in hot water and dry them on hot to kill any mites. If you don't have access to a washer and dryer, take them to a dry cleaner or keep them in a plastic bag for a week.
  3. Clean your house: Vacuum your floors to get rid of mites.
  4. Avoid contact with others: Be conscious of whom you may infect: avoid sexual contact or prolonged physical contact of any kind until you are symptom-free.
  5. Treat your whole household: Finally, make sure that everyone in your household gets treated at the same time so that the mites do not survive by transferring from one person to another.

Though some people believe that scabies is an indicator of bad hygiene, this is not the case. It is much more commonly indicative of crowded living conditions where it can easily spread. If you suspect you have scabies, make sure to go to a doctor and get treatment for you and your household as soon as possible and make sure to inform your sexual partners.


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