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Prescription-strength permethrin 5% kills the scabies mite. The medicine will come with instructions, and your doctor will also give you a treatment schedule. The National Institutes of Health recommends the following use of 5% permethrin cream for scabies:
National Institutes of Health information available online: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a698037.html.
Permethrin cream (Elimite) is one of the first medicines doctors prescribe to cure a scabies infestation. It is the treatment of choice for children and for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Permethrin 5% cream is considered safe for infants as young as 2 months old.1
Permethrin should be used with caution on people who are allergic to pyrethrin products or chrysanthemums.
Research has shown permethrin to be effective.2 A single application of permethrin cream (Elimite) cures most scabies infestations. Itching usually decreases significantly within 24 hours, though some itching is common for up to several weeks after treatment.
People who have crusted (Norwegian) scabies (rare) may need to apply the medicine several times. It may be necessary to follow the initial permethrin treatment with other scabies medicines (such as ivermectin or sulfur) to cure this form of scabies.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
Having scabies can cause your skin to itch, swell, and turn red. These problems may feel worse right after you apply this medicine.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Itching commonly continues for up to several weeks after treatment with a scabies medicine. This doesn't mean that the scabies mites are still alive. It means that the body is still reacting to the mites and their feces.
Unless your doctor recommends it, do not apply permethrin scabies medicine (Elimite) more than once. You only need to use the medicine again if you can see live mites on your skin 14 days after you have been treated. Overuse of scabies medicines can irritate the skin and may increase the risk of side effects.
Nonprescription permethrin 1% is used to treat lice but is not strong enough to cure scabies.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Last Revised: January 23, 2013
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