Although virtually anyone can get scabies, children and young adults have a greater risk of getting this disease because of their vulnerable bodies. Children are also more likely to stay in highly populated facilities, such as playgrounds, dormitories and daycare centers, where scabies quickly spreads.
So if you notice extremely itchy rashes on your child’s skin, beware: it may be a scabies infestation. It usually takes between four to six weeks after a child has been exposed to the parasitic mite before scabies symptoms manifest.
Scabies Symptoms in Children
In children who have been infested for the first time, this incubation period may take as much as six weeks. However, if your child has had scabies before, the reaction time is quicker, and the symptoms may manifest within only a day or two.
In children ages 2 and below, scabies rashes usually appear on the head, palms, neck, and soles. Blisters and pustules (small, pus-filled blisters) may also develop on their palms and soles. In older children, though, the most common scabies symptom is having rashes on the:
• Hands (between the fingers or on the wrists)
• Belt line and bellybutton area
Scabies bumps may appear like reddish pimples, and may sometimes have wavy light brown or silvery “burrow marks” as well. In severe cases, these rashes become scaly or crusty.
Relieving Your Child’s Scabies: Tips to Remember
Scabies in children can be treated, but remember that your child will not be spared from the uncomfortable and annoying itch brought on by scabies mites. Children who harbor this infestation are usually very irritable. The itch usually lasts for six weeks, due to the allergic response caused by the mites.
It also becomes intense at night, when the mites are more active, or during a warm bath. Some children find it difficult to sleep through the evening because of the itch, and may even consistently scratch their skin, leading to cracks where bacterial infections may form. Make sure to keep your child’s fingernails short to prevent this from happening.
It is important to consult a physician to confirm if your child has scabies. The doctor will check to confirm the presence of mites by taking a small sample from your child’s skin (this is painless and typically involves just scraping the surface of the skin) and looking at it under a microscope.
Don’t Let Your Child Spread This Disease
Remember that scabies may spread to the other members of your household, especially other children, so you must take preventive measures to keep the infestation from spreading. You should also let your child stay at home instead of going to school or the daycare, to prevent him or her from transmitting the mites to other children. Here are some additional tips to prevent scabies from spreading in your home:
• Vacuum your flooring, including carpets and mats, and dispose of the vacuum bag’s contents immediately.
• Wash your children’s clothes, toys, towels and beddings using hot water, and dry them in a tumble dryer.
• Seal your child’s toys and stuffed animals – and other items that cannot be washed – in a plastic bag for up to a week. Scabies mites cannot live for more than a few days without a host, so this will help kill them.