It’s easy to misdiagnose scabies in infants because it doesn’t present with the usual signs and symptoms in this age group.

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“It’s really important to think of scabies in any widespread rash that a baby presents with,” said Andrea Zaenglein, MD, professor of dermatology and pediatric dermatology at Penn State University, Hershey. It’s often missed in the ED because it’s not recognized.

While lesions might be limited to the webbing of the hands in older patients, infants generally have a widespread rash with many different lesion types involving the armpits, trunk, and even the scalp. “In older kids, we always think of itch as our primary criteria, but for infants with scabies, that’s not always the case. The younger the kid, the less able they’re to manifest the itch in a way that we recognize,” she said in an interview at the Hawaii Dermatology Seminar provided by Global Academy for Medical Education/Skin Disease Education Foundation.

Standard treatment for infants with scabies is permethrin cream, which, Dr. Zaenglein advises, should be applied from head to toe. “And make sure to treat all family members, even if they’re not demonstrating any symptoms. It’s really important, because that baby had to get scabies from somebody,” she said. Although permethrin isn’t approved for use under 2 months old, she said she has no problem with it in younger, otherwise healthy infants, but cases below 2 months are uncommon. Even if infants are exposed at birth, it takes several weeks for scabies to manifest.

Topical corticosteroids are useful as well to speed healing and help with itch. Ivermectin is held in reserve for older patients, especially in institutional settings where many people have to be treated at a time, or when permethrin cream is not effective.

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