Permethrin (patient information)

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Why is this medication prescribed

Permethrin kills parasites and their eggs. It is used to treat scabies (a skin infestation) and lice infestations of the head, body, and pubic area ('crabs'). Permethrin does not prevent these infestations.

How should this medicine be used?

Permethrin comes in a cream and liquid (cream rinse) to use externally. Usually, one application of permethrin completely eliminates the parasites. However, the treatment may need to be repeated after 1 week; call your doctor if signs of infestation (live parasites) reappear. Follow the directions on the package or on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Use permethrin exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than directed by your doctor.

Wear rubber gloves when applying it if you have open cuts or scratches on your hands. If this medication accidentally gets in your eyes, rinse them thoroughly with water for at least 5 minutes.

If you are to use the liquid, follow these steps:

  • Shampoo your hair using your regular shampoo.
  • Thoroughly rinse and towel dry your hair and scalp.
  • Allow your hair to air dry for a few minutes.
  • Do not stand (or sit) in a shower or bathtub; lean over a sink to apply permethrin to your head.
  • Shake the bottle of liquid well.
  • Thoroughly wet the hair and scalp with the liquid. Cover the areas behind your ears and the back of your neck.
  • Keep permethrin on your hair for 10 minutes before rinsing it off thoroughly with water.
  • Dry your hair with a clean towel.
  • Comb your hair with a fine tooth comb to remove nits (lice eggs and larvae).
  • Wash your hands to remove the medication.

If you are to use the cream, follow these steps:

  • Wash your entire body or take a shower.
  • Thoroughly massage the cream into your skin over your entire body, from your head to your toes.
  • Leave the cream on for 8-14 hours.
  • Wash the cream off after 8-14 hours by taking another shower.

If you have head lice, wash combs and brushes with permethrin liquid and rinse them thoroughly with water to remove the drug.

What special precautions should I follow

Before using permethrin:

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to permethrin or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, including vitamins.
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant or are breast-feeding. If you are pregnant, wear gloves when applying permethrin to *another person to prevent its absorption through your skin.

Side effects

Permethrin may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • skin irritation
  • rash
  • redness
  • swelling

What storage conditions are needed for this medicine

Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

What other information should I know

Keep all appointments with your doctor. Permethrin is for external use only. Do not let permethrin get into your eyes, nose, or mouth, and do not swallow it. Do not apply dressings, bandages, cosmetics, lotions, or other skin medications to the area being treated unless your doctor tells you.

After using permethrin, machine-wash (or dry clean) all clothing, bed linen, and towels that you have used in the last 2 days. Use hot water. Dry everything in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes. Thoroughly clean all bathtubs, showers, and toilets in your home with rubbing alcohol.

You may have transmitted the parasites to family members and close contacts (including sexual contacts); advise them to see a doctor if they develop symptoms of infestation.

If you have scabies and your skin has become sensitive to the parasite, itching may persist for several weeks after the treatment. However, this itching does not mean that the treatment was a failure. Call your doctor if you have questions.

Do not let anyone else use your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about permethrin.

Brand names

  • Acticin®
  • Elimite®
  • Nix® Creme Rinse