Medication Information Leaflet

What is Scabies?

Scabies is caused by human itch mites, known as Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites dig their way through the skin, where they live and lay  their eggs. The eggs take a week to hatch and the mite lives for 30 to 60 days.

What are the possible causes of this condition?

Scabies can be passed from one person to the other when there is physical contact with an infected person. It can also be passed on through sharing contaminated items such as clothing, bed sheets or furniture with an infected person. 

What are the symptoms of Scabies?

The symptoms of this condition can include the following:

  • Severe itch, usually worse at night.
  • Skin rashes include scratchy, red bumps and small burrows. Common areas affected are web spaces between fingers and toes, ankles, armpit, waist and genitals.
  • After treatment, the itching will improve but can last for up to a few months.

Symptoms may take up to 2 months to develop after exposure. Therefore, all infected people and close contacts (e.g. everyone living in the house or have had skin contact) have to be treated at the same time even if they have not developed a rash. 

What can I do to treat scabies?

Scabies can be treated in the following ways and you can approach your pharmacist to get the following medications. 

  • Malathion lotion
  • Benzyl benzoate

When do I need to see a doctor?

Although scabies can be treated without a doctor’s consultation, there are times where the condition might be more serious. 

If your condition does not get better in 4 weeks or gets worse, you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Scratching that causes open wounds which can lead to bacterial infection
  • Uncontrolled itch despite treatment 
  • Signs of infection (e.g. redness, pus or swelling on scratch wounds) 
  • Itch that does not go away more than 1 month after treatment or a new rash develops

What else can I do to manage this condition?

Other than using medications to treat the condition, scabies can also be managed by the following methods:

  • Bed sheets or clothing that were used by the infected person at least 2-3 days before starting treatment should be machine-washed in hot water and dried with a hot dryer or dry-cleaned.
  • Items that cannot be dry-cleaned should be stored in a sealed plastic bag for a few days to a week to starve the mites. Mites are usually not able to survive more than 2-3 days without a host. 
  • People who have close contact with the infected person should be treated for scabies to avoid spreading the infection to others. 
  • Rooms used by the infected person should be cleaned and vacuumed thoroughly.

The following are some suggestions to prevent scabies from happening again:

  • Avoid contact with the infected person or sharing contaminated items such as bed sheets or clothing used by the infected person


This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.

The content above is solely for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.

Last updated on November 2023

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