Thursday 27th of April 2017


My daughter Emily was badly infected with scabies when I adopted her in Nanning in November 1994 as were several of the children in our adoptive group. Because the battle has been long and frustrating, I wanted to share our findings with you and your readers in hopes of helping others who may be faced with a similar challenge.

Scabies is a microscopic parasitic mite that buries itself into the skin and lays eggs. It has a cycle similar to fleas in that the eggs are hard to kill. The body reacts with a red sore that has tiny nodules inside which is actually the mite's "house". Scabies is extremely contagious and extremely uncomfortable as the sores burn and itch. The most commonly used medications in the United States for Scabies are Kwell (Lindane), or Elamite. Usually, these medications are reported to eliminate the mite and eggs within one or two applications. Limitation of application is critical as the medications are toxic and repeated usage could cause neurological damage.

However, after three applications of Elamite and four applications of Lindane over a period of three months after our return to the United States, Emily continued to break out with new sores weekly. I was very concerned about the repeated use of toxic medications and, in addition, the daily routine was overwhelming. Because scabies is extremely contagious, each day, I would wash in hot water, and sometimes boil, all her clothes, bedding, car seat cover, towels, and virtually everything fabric she could touch. I kept soft toys and household items like pillows away from her to eliminate the chance of an egg hatching elsewhere in the house. We had to be very careful with visitors as Scabies is extremely contagious. My mother traveled to China with me to adopt Emily. She and I both had to be treated with full body--head to toe--applications of Kwell upon our return from China as a proactive precaution. Neither one of us showed any symptoms but because of the high risk of transfer of the mite, we followed the advice of the doctors and applied the ointment as well.

After three months of treatment without success, I began to seek help from every resource I could find locally. Finally, another mother from our group suggested that I contact Families with Children from China in New York and thus I was referred to Dr. Jerri Jenista, an adoptive mother who is also an infectious disease specialist focusing on third world country issues. Dr. Jenista welcomed the opportunity to counsel my pediatrician and me on this subject.

We learned that some babies are simply so allergic to the mite's presence that the symptoms last much longer (months longer) than the actual live infestation. In other words, Emily no longer had live Scabies as was finally proven by a skin scraping at a dermatologist office. Instead, she was still showing identical nodules and sores as when she was still infected, but this was simply an allergic reaction to the mite's remains in the skin. This was further supported by the fact that no one else including me or all the brave visitors we had ever became infected. Dr. Jenista advised me to discontinue the Kwell and Lindane and told us that, over a period of time, the nodules and sores would disappear. We followed her advice and, although she continued to suffer from occasional new sores, they did not itch and slowly diminished in number, ending altogether by the time Emily had been home for four months. She is now a thriving and healthy growing infant with glowing, clear skin.

I hope that no one else traveling to China encounters the same stubborn problem we had. However, if so, I hope this information is helpful. I feel as though I have been on a research project for several months as I have spoken to doctors all over the world, and have in the process, met some very supportive and well informed people. In addition to Emily's health improving, I have found a wonderful support group of other parents and specialists all with the same bond of loving adopted babies and families.




Denise Shields and daughter Emily live in Laguna Beach, California.

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