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Scabies and After

Some children adopted from Vietnam do have scabies.Its not uncommon among certain orphanages. The articles on this page from parents who have adopted from Vietnam provide help for coping with scabies. They are Scabies FAQ, Scabies & Infant Acropustulosis, and Our Bout with Scabies

See also Scabies Treatment Links.

Scabies FAQ

By Linda Forde

One health problem that newly adopted children may have is scabies. They're nasty little (microscopic) mites that burrow under the skin, causing allergic itching.I am not a doctor, "just" an adoptive mom. But since my second child had scabies when we met, I've had to learn much more than I ever wanted to know about this issue! She was successfully treated with "Ascabiol" (a French product that the AEA International Clinic prescribed for us while we were in Vietnam), but about a month after we got home, she broke out with what looked like water blisters on her feet, wrists, and fingers which itched terribly. Thanks to the postings on the APV list, I knew it probably wasn't a reinfestation of scabies, especially since no one else in the family was itching. Scabies are highly contageous - if she still had them, so would we!

Even though a doctor at an International Adoption Clinic told me that she still had active scabies (after only a quick glance at her feet!), our doctor confirmed that this is a "post-scabies irritation condition" which is common after someone has had scabies. This condition consisting of itching, redness, and blisters may be caused by the "remnants" left under the skin after the mites are dead. It takes some time (possibly months or years) for this "debris" to work its way out. Hopefully, you'll never have to deal with scabies - good luck!


Scabies occurs most often in folds of skin - between fingers, toes, wrists, heels, elbows, waist. Scabies cannot be seen with the naked eye, only under a microscope. The burrows of the mites may show up as small lines on the skin if a washable marker is used to color over the suspected area, then wiped off.

Post scabies irritation is characterized by reddening of the skin on affected areas, followed by fluid-filled blisters. These dry up and flatten out in a day or two, then the dead skin may peel off. Itching seems most intense when the skin is beginning to turn red and when the blisters first appear, especially at night. The outbreaks occur in 3-4 week cycles, lessening in severity over time.


Scabies are spread by close personal skin-to-skin contact such as that found in orphanages. Anyone suspected of having scabies should not share clothing, towels, or sheets with any other family member. Routine bathing in warm water with borax added; saunas; and frequent washing of towels, clothing, sheets, etc. in hot water and borax all seem to help prevent the spread of scabies.


Most U.S. cases are treated with a 5% permethrin product. DO NOT USE any product containing LINDANE, as this has caused severe reactions in some people. Frequent warm baths or saunas are recommended as part of the treatment.

Control of itching:

Moisturizing lotions, hydrocortisone creams, olive oil, Benadryl, oatmeal baths, baking soda baths, and gently popping the blisters and applying Eucalyptus oil have all been suggested as ways to help stop or lessen the itching associated with scabies or post-scabies.

Scabies & Infant Acropustulosis

by Mary King Wilson

A reoccurrence of itchy pustules can be a post scabies condition that is not a result of still having the live mite. If your child/infant really still had Scabies, you would too--it is highly contagious. One condition that many post-scabies children exhibit is infant acropustulosis. This skin condition can persist for YEARS after having scabies. Retreating with Elimite is useless if you do not have the live parasitic mite in your system.

Please read this article for clarification--show it to your physician. The one point of difference I have with this article is that infers most kids grow out of this by age 3. Unfortunately, my 4.5 yo daughter still experiences bouts with the papules with frustrating reoccurrence.

Relief comes through 1) topical application of 1% cortisone and 2) oral dose of Atarax (prescription antihistamine) if given early it can actually thwart an outbreak.

This skin condition also seems to pop up more in international adoptees than what a typical US physical would see (as does scabies). Do print and show this article to your Doctor.

Our Bout with Scabies

By Wendy Barron

When we picked [our daughter] Sahara up from her orphanage, she had scabies. Unfortunately we were not aware of this for quite some time. In fact, we didn't even know we could catch it (we weren't sure what scabies were). I had noticed from the time we picked her up, that Sahara had little bumps on her tummy, legs, arms, etc (only a couple here and there), and had noticed her itching at them. About a month after we got home, I started itching. My first reaction was "mosquito bites". Well, after my itching increased, I decided it couldn't be mosquitoes, and guessed I was allergic to something. I stopped eating things, changed detergents, etc. - to no relief. I continued to get worse. I started bleeding from my crazy scratching, and could hardly sleep or stand my life. I took numerous baths in baking soda water. I started to get scars from my scratching, and noticed a couple on Sahara. Then [my husband] Tim started to itch (it had now been about three months since we'd been home). About two weeks of his misery, he insisted on a doctor's appointment. When I showed our Dermatologist my stomach,arms and legs, she gasped. She said I had the WORST case of scabies she'd ever seen!

We started our treatment that night. I have been better for quite some time, and want to make sure no one else, ever has to go through the pain I (we) did. Scabies are a parasitic mite that burrow into your skin. They love to live in crevices of your body, such as between toes, under finger nails, in your buttocks, etc., but they are not picky (my worst was on my stomach). You will probably have about ten mites on your body, and the redness, swelling, possible scarring is just an allergic reaction. You get scabies from extended close contact with another person (I bathed with Sahara in Vietnam). They do not live without a host for very long, but it is still recommended that you wash all clothing, bedding, toys, etc in HOT water, or throw them away when you discover you have scabies and have begun treatment.

Treatment consists of spreading a cream called Elimite all over your entire body from the neck down, including in buttocks, in and around pubic areas, in between toes/fingers, and under the nails. You keep it on overnight, and wash it off in the morning (shower). Wash the pj's and bedding from that night in HOT water, or throw away. You can repeat the process a week later if need be. They should be completely gone in two weeks. For the itching pain-our doctor suggested a lotion called Sarna (over-the-counter) that worked like a charm! Try to bring Elimite and Sarna on your trip - just in case!

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