The parasitic scabies mite can cause intense itching to the sites where it burrows under the skin. Home remedies might bring you some symptomatic relief until you can get medical attention for more effective treatment. In addition to treatment, it's essential to take steps to prevent re-infection.
Home Remedies to Relieve Scabies Symptoms
You are unlikely to cure scabies with home remedies, but you might get some relief from the itchy rash, red bumps and linear burrows where the mites take up residence. It is important to see your doctor for effective treatment if your symptoms continue after a week of trying home remedies and alternative medicines or if your symptoms are severe or worsen.
Cool the Area
For temporary relief of a minor infection, where the rash is limited to a few areas of your body and the symptoms are mild, cooling the areas can decrease the itching. Try the following remedies:
- Dab rubbing alcohol on the itchy spots.
- Soak in a cool bath for 15-20 minutes.
- Apply a wet cool wash cloth to itchy areas.
Control the Itching
Over-the-counter products (OTCs) will also only offer temporary relief, but they can help you get through the hours or days until you can see the doctor. Try these suggestions after taking a cooling bath or shower:
- Calamine lotion is soothing and can relieve the pain and itch. Apply to all itchy areas as needed.
- Hydrocortisone cream or lotion relieves itching, redness and swelling. Use small amounts sparingly three times a day.
- Antihistamines will give you relief from itching, especially at night when the itching tends to be worse. Try diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl, or Citrizine such as Zyrtec, or Allegra and Allegra D.
- Aloe vera gel or lotion has anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. Apply to affected skin as needed.
Non-Prescription Options to Treat Scabies
There only a few studies on the effectiveness of alternative, non-prescription medicines in killing the scabies mites and eggs. These medicines are not recommended for the cure of scabies by conventional United States physicians. However, some physicians who are advocates of holistic or complementary medicine, such as Dr. Andrew Weil, suggest home treatments for scabies.
These preparations discussed here are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is best to check with your doctor before using them. They contain terpenoids or eugenols, substances that have anti-inflammatory and insecticidal properties, as active ingredients.
Neem oil is used as medicine in India. It is a tree-derived, non-toxic pesticide but can be harmful if swallowed. In an Indian study reported in the Journal of Tropical and Geographic Diseases in 2002, Neem was found to be effective in treating scabies.
Neem oil is available in health food stores, online retailers and mass merchandise stores like Walmart. To use it:
- Dab the solution on a gauze pad and apply to affected skin twice daily to decrease itching and inflammation. Leave on 15-20 minutes, then wash off.
- You can also mix a few drops of oil in 1/2 cup of soapy water, add it to a hot bath, and soak for 20 minutes.
Tea Tree Oil 5% Solution
Terpinen-4-ol is the active ingredient in tea tree oil. In an Australian study reported in JAMA Dermatology in 2004, 5% tea tree oil was found to be effective in killing scabies mites. It is toxic if swallowed. Don't use the pure oil on your genitals because it will burn.
Tea tree oil can be found in natural food stores, beauty supply stores and Drugstore.com. To use it:
- Add two teaspoons of the oil to eight ounces of liquid soap and shower with this solution twice a day. Alternately, you can add the mixture to your bath water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day
- You can also dab the oil on a gauze pad and apply it to affected skin after bathing or showering.
- Add a teaspoon of tea tree oil to five teaspoons of olive oil and massage all over your body twice a day, including between fingers and toes.
Clove oil was tested in another Australian study and reported in the Public Library of Science in 2010. The authors concluded that clove showed promise in killing scabies. The active ingredient in clove oil is is eugenol. Clove oil is irritating to skin. It can be found in health food stores, mass merchandise stores and GNC.
To use clove oil :
- Add a teaspoon to 1/2 cup of soapy water and add it your bath water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes
- For minor infection, after bathing or showering, add a few drops of to 4 ounces of olive oil and apply the mixture all over your body
Rosemary is another eugenol-containing plant with insecticidal and antiseptic properties. In a 2010 Public Library of Science (PLOS) article, rosemary is listed among a number of essential oils and compounds effective against species of mites. Rosemary has not been tested in mites that affect humans, but a study reported in Pest Management Science in April 2006 found it be effective against a species of plant mites.
Dried rosemary or fresh rosemary leaves are widely available in supermarkets. Rosemary essential oil can be purchased at GNC or other health food stores. To use rosemary:
- Make a tea of rosemary leaves by adding one tablespoon of dried rosemary leaves or three fresh sprigs to eight ounces of hot water. Cover and let brew for 15 minutes.
- After the tea cools, wet a wash cloth and dab the infected areas two or three times a day after bathing or showering.
- You can also add the brewed tea to a small amount of hot water in your bathtub. Sit in the tub and use a wash cloth to wash your body all over twice a day.
- You can use rosemary essential oil in bath water instead of tea. Mix a teaspoon of oil in 1/2 cup of soapy water and add to your bath water. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add ten drops of rosemary essential oil to four ounces of olive oil and massage the mixture all over your body after bathing or showering.
Products to Avoid
Products such as bleach, Borax, Lysol and lemon oil are not recommended as they might irritate the skin and worsen the itch and will not kill the parasite.
It's important to rid your home of places where mites can hide to prevent a recurrence of infection. Scabies mites spread through contact with an infected person or contact with infected items, including clothes, bedding, towels, washcloths, etc. - especially in crowded spaces.
To prevent re-infestation do the following:
- Cut nails and clean them, including cuticles, to get rid of mites and eggs.
- Wash bed linens daily until the infection is fully treated.
- Wash linens and clothes in very hot water in the washing machine and dry them in a very hot dryer.
- Place clothes and stuffed toys that are not washable in a bags. Tie the bags tightly and leave for at least three days.
- Wash other toys in hot water.
- Treat everyone in the house and other people who had close contact with the infected person, especially sexual partners. They may be infected even if they have no symptoms. This is key to avoid reinfestation.
- Vacuum the whole house, including upholstered furniture.
Doctor's Diagnosis and Treatment
Because there is not a lot evidence for the effectiveness of home remedies for scabies, you will likely need to seek medical attention. If your symptoms continue after a week of trying home treatments, or if your symptoms are severe or get worse, to to your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor can give you prescription medicines to get rid of the scabies.