Indian Journal of Dermatology
  Publication of IADVL, WB
  Official organ of AADV
Indexed with Science Citation Index (E) , Web of Science and PubMed
 
Users online: 1158  
Home About  Editorial Board  Current Issue Archives Online Early Coming Soon Guidelines Subscriptions  e-Alerts    Login  
    Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size Print this page Email this page


 
Table of Contents 
REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 61  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 583-587
Safety of topical medications for scabies and lice in pregnancy


Dermatology and Pathology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the Rutgers University School of Public Affairs and Administration Newark, New Jersey, USA

Date of Web Publication9-Nov-2016

Correspondence Address:
Robert A Schwartz
Professor & Head, Dermatology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, 185 South Orange Avenue, Medical Science Building H-576, Newark, New Jersey 07103-2757
USA
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-5154.193659

Rights and Permissions

   Abstract 

Medications should be employed with caution in women of childbearing age. Topical medications have little systemic absorption. Therefore, they are considered safer than oral or parenteral agents and less likely to be embryotoxic or fetotoxic. However, their safety profile must be assessed cautiously as the available data are limited. In this article, we aggregate human and animal studies to provide recommendations on using topical anti-scabies and anti-lice therapy in pregnancy.


Keywords: Ivermectin, lice, permethrin, pregnancy, scabies


How to cite this article:
Patel VM, Lambert W C, Schwartz RA. Safety of topical medications for scabies and lice in pregnancy. Indian J Dermatol 2016;61:583-7

How to cite this URL:
Patel VM, Lambert W C, Schwartz RA. Safety of topical medications for scabies and lice in pregnancy. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Jun 20];61:583-7. Available from: http://www.e-ijd.org/text.asp?2016/61/6/583/193659

What was known?
Topical medications are typically considered safer than oral or parenteral agents during pregnancy. However, topical medications may still cause embryotoxicity or fetotoxicity. The old FDA pregnancy categories (A,B,C,D,X) do not accurately reflect the risks of drug use in pregnancy.



   Introduction Top


Scabies is an intensely pruritic dermatosis caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. [1] It is highly contagious and may have the pathognomonic sign of burrows in addition to nocturnal pruritus and erythematous papules. [2] Numerous medications are available for treatment such as permethrin, ivermectin, lindane, benzyl benzoate, malathion, crotamiton, and sulfur. Pediculosis capitis, also known as head lice, is caused by the head louse Pediculus humanus capitis. [3] Scalp pruritus is the cardinal symptom although patients can be asymptomatic. [4] Treatment should be considered if active lice or viable eggs are observed. Three treatment modalities include wet combing, topical pediculicides, and oral therapy. [5]

Although numerous medications are available, caution must be utilized in pregnant patients as several medications act as toxins that can cause significant fetal harm. This article aggregates human and animal studies and provides recommendations on the safe use of topical anti-scabies and anti-lice therapy in pregnancy. [Table 1] provides Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pregnancy category ratings and their interpretation. [Table 2] provides the summary of recommendations on using topical anti-scabies and anti-lice medications in pregnancy.
Table 1: Food and Drug Administration pregnancy category interpretation

Click here to view
Table 2: Recommendations on topical anti-scabies and anti-lice medications

Click here to view


In December 2014, the FDA published the pregnancy and lactation labeling rule, which eliminated the pregnancy letter categories. Instead, narrative summaries of the risks of drug use in pregnancy and discussion of the data supporting those summaries will be provided in the new label. The old label was criticized as confusing, overly simplistic, and as poorly communicating the risks of drug use during pregnancy and lactation. This rule is effective as of June 30, 2015. All new prescription drug submissions will utilize the new labeling format, while drugs approved after June 30, 2001, will gradually switch to the new format. Since the medications discussed herein may not have switched to the new labeling format, we still present the FDA pregnancy category ratings, along with a description of available studies and recommendations on their use in pregnancy [Table 1].


   Topical Anti-scabies and Lice Medications Top


Benzyl benzoate (Category C, not available in the USA)

Benzyl benzoate was banned in the United States because its metabolite, benzyl alcohol was associated with neonatal fatal intoxication ("gasping syndrome," with encephalopathy, metabolic acidosis, bone marrow suppression, and multiple organ failure). [6] However, intoxication only occurred when benzyl alcohol itself was used to rinse central vein catheters. Products containing benzyl alcohol are still available in over the counter products in the USA. Except for local skin irritation, no reports of toxicity in animals or humans have been reported after topical application of benzyl benzoate. [7] A Thai study examined 444 pregnant women in their second and third trimester who utilized 25% benzyl benzoate preparation topically. No increased risk for birth defects was reported. [8] The use of topical benzyl benzoate is likely safe. [9],[10]

Camphor (Category C)

Topical camphor has a cooling and local anesthetic effect which makes it suitable for pruritic skin conditions. In animal studies, there is no evidence of embryotoxicity or teratogenicity even at maternally toxic doses. [11],[12] Since camphor can cross the placental barrier, ingesting it can potentially cause fetal demise and neonatal respiratory failure. [13] In the Collaborative Perinatal Project, 168 women with first trimester exposure to topical camphor were followed throughout their pregnancy. No evidence of congenital malformations was reported. [14] Furthermore, in 763 women who utilized camphor at any time in their pregnancies, no congenital defects were found. [14] To date, there have been no reported adverse fetal outcomes as a result of camphor use. [15] Therefore, the use of topical camphor is permitted. [9],[10],[16],[17]

Corticosteroids (Category C)

A 2015 Cochrane review analyzed five cohort and nine case-controlled studies and concluded that regardless of potency, topical corticosteroids are safe in pregnancy. They do not lead to increased risks of fetal malformations, congenital anomalies, and adverse perinatal outcomes such as mode of delivery, preterm birth, stillbirths, low Apgar scores, or fetal death. [18] However, an association was found between the use of very potent topical corticosteroids and low birth weights, especially when the cumulative dose is very high throughout pregnancy. [18] It is important to note that topical corticosteroid absorption varies not only among individuals but also with respect to anatomic location as well. It is the lowest on the soles of the feet (0.14%), ankle (0.42%), palms (0.83%), forearm (1%), and back (1.7%), while scalp (3.5%), face, neck, axilla (3.6%), forehead (6%), eyelids (42%), and groin (42%) absorb increased amounts. [19] The current recommendation is that topical mild or moderate potency corticosteroids are safe in pregnancy. Potent topical corticosteroids should be utilized for the shortest time possible with appropriate obstetrics care given due to the possible risk of fetal growth restriction. [20],[21]

Crotamiton (Category C)

About 1% of topically applied dose is absorbed systemically. [22] No animal or human studies have been conducted. No adverse pregnancy outcomes have been reported from the use of topical crotamiton. [23] Although it should not be used as the first line therapy due to lack of safety data, crotamiton is considered safe to use in pregnancy. [10],[24],[25],[26]

Ivermectin (Category C)

In animal studies, at doses which produced maternal toxicity, fetal malformations were noted such as cleft palate, exencephaly, and clubbed forepaws in rabbits. [27] In a 3 year Liberian study, ivermectin was inadvertently distributed to pregnant women. Two hundred and three children born to exposed women did not have increased birth defects, compared to untreated mothers in the same population. [28] A 1993 study from Cameroon, in which 110 pregnant women inadvertently received ivermectin did not report an increased incidence of abortions, stillbirths, or congenital malformations. In a second analysis, 97 pregnant women treated with ivermectin were compared with untreated women, but no statistically significant difference in fetal outcomes was reported between the two groups. [29] Although these studies deem it safe, many authors are hesitant due to the data from animal studies. Therefore, topical ivermectin is best avoided as there are other alternatives, such as permethrin, that are safer. [9],[26],[30],[31]

Lindane (Category C)

Lindane has been withdrawn from many countries but is available in the US. Animal studies in rats showed an altered motor activity, increased mortality, and decreased pup weight gain at concentrations twice estimated human exposure. [32],[33] At three times the concentration, increased stillbirths were noted. [32],[33] However, no teratogenic effects were noted in these animal studies. [32],[33],[34],[35] A surveillance study of Michigan Medicaid recipients, where 1417 newborns were exposed to topical lindane during the first trimester, did not have an increased incidence of defects such as cardiovascular anomalies, oral clefts, spina bifida, polydactyly, and limb reduction defects although seven cases of hypospadias were seen (three were expected). [17] Further, there are several case reports of stillborn infants, neutral tube defects, and mental retardation after maternal exposure to lindane. [36] Due to potential toxicity associated with lindane, it should be avoided during pregnancy. [10],[26],[37]

Malathion (Category B)

Animal studies failed to show evidence of teratogenicity or gross fetal abnormalities. [38] A cohort of 22,465 infants born to mothers exposed to aerial malathion spraying in the first trimester did not have an increased risk of congenital malformations. [39] A case-cohort study of 7450 women exposed to malathion during the 1981-1982 aerial spraying of San Francisco Bay area did not report an increased risk of congenital malformations. [40] Moreover, in several other studies where mothers had detectable malathion concentrations in the urine did not have differences in birth weight, head circumference, or altered neurodevelopment compared to the nonexposed group. [41],[42] Although it is likely safe to use in pregnancy, it should be used after other safer alternatives have been utilized (such as mechanical treatment for lice or permethrin). [10],[43],[44],[45],[46] If malathion is used, aqueous rather than alcoholic solutions should be used and women should be advised not to exceed the recommended dose.

Menthol (Category N)

Menthol is available in numerous over the counter products. Lotions containing menthol are utilized as topical analgesics. Teratogenic effects are not observed in offspring of numerous animal species receiving doses up to 106 times the acceptable daily intake in humans. [15] Although human studies are lacking, adverse effects in pregnancies have not been reported. [25] The use of topical menthol lotions is safe. [10],[16],[47]

Permethrin (Category B)

About 2% of the topically applied dose is absorbed systemically. [7] Animal studies have not demonstrated fetal harm. [48] In a prospective study of 113 pregnant women who used permethrin shampoo (31 in their first trimester) did not have any indication of embryotoxicity. [49] In another study, 196 pregnant women who utilized 4% permethrin did not have adverse fetal outcomes. [8] Often considered the first line for topical treatment of parasitic infections, permethrin is safe to use during pregnancy. [26],[30],[37],[50]

Precipitated sulfur (Category C)

Although not a first line agent, sulfur has been utilized to treat initial and recurrent cases of scabies. [51] About 1% of topically applied sulfur is absorbed. [52] There is limited information on safe use in human pregnancies. Due to its low systemic absorption and no reported cases of adverse outcomes, topical sulfur is not expected to cause fetal harm. After the use of other first line medications such as permethrin, limited use of topical precipitated sulfur is considered safe. [10],[53],[54]

Spinosad (Category B)

Animal studies using oral spinosad were negative for teratogenic effects. After 10 min of topical application, plasma spinosad concentration was undetectable. [55] Long-term carcinogenesis studies in animals were negative. [55] Genotoxicity tests did not show evidence of mutagenic or clastogenic potential. [55] Spinosad is poorly absorbed through the skin and is rapidly metabolized and excreted. [56] Although the drug suspension contains unspecified amounts of benzyl alcohol, it is unclear if sufficient amounts of it would be absorbed to cause embryotoxicity or fetotoxicity. [55] Human studies are lacking, but negligible systemic absorption coupled with the lack of toxicity in animal studies indicates that limited topical use is likely safe [Table 2]. [17],[56]

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
   References Top

1.
Arya V, Molinaro MJ, Majewski SS, Schwartz RA. Pediatric scabies. Cutis 2003;71:193-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Tajirian A, Schwartz R. Scabies and pediculosis: Biologic cycle and diagnosis. In: Micali G, editor. Videodermatoscopy in Clinical Practice. New York: Informa Healthcare; 2010. p. 7-10.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Micali G, Lacarrubba F, Massimino D, Schwartz RA. Dermatoscopy: Alternative uses in daily clinical practice. J Am Acad Dermatol 2011;64:1135-46.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Nutanson I, Steen C, Schwartz RA. Pediculosis corporis: An ancient itch. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat 2007;15:33-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Nutanson I, Steen CJ, Schwartz RA, Janniger CK. Pediculus humanus capitis: An update. Acta Dermatovenerol Alp Pannonica Adriat 2008;17:147-54, 156-7, 159.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Hall CM, Milligan DW, Berrington J. Probable adverse reaction to a pharmaceutical excipient. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 2004;89:F184.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Fölster-Holst R, Rufli T, Christophers E. Treatment of scabies with special consideration of the approach in infancy, pregnancy and while nursing. Hautarzt 2000;51:7-13.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Mytton OT, McGready R, Lee SJ, Roberts CH, Ashley EA, Carrara VI, et al. Safety of benzyl benzoate lotion and permethrin in pregnancy: A retrospective matched cohort study. BJOG 2007;114:582-7.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Mattison D. Clinical Pharmacology During Pregnancy. 1 st ed. London, UK: Academic Press; 2012.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Schaefer C, Peters P, Miller R. Drugs During Pregnancy and Lactation. 3 rd ed. London, UK: Academic Press; 2014.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Leuschner J. Reproductive toxicity studies of D-camphor in rats and rabbits. Arzneimittelforschung 1997;47:124-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Alakilli SY. Evaluation of camphor mutagenicity in somatic cells of pregnant rats. Asian J Biotechnol 2009;1:111-7.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Weiss J, Catalano P. Camphorated oil intoxication during pregnancy. Pediatrics 1973;52:713-4.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Heinonen O, Slone D, Shapiro S. Birth Defects and Drugs in Pregnancy: Maternal Drug Exposure and Congenital Malformations. Littleton, MA: Publishing Sciences Group; 1977.  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.
Alsaad AM, Fox C, Koren G. Toxicology and teratology of the active ingredients of professional therapy MuscleCare products during pregnancy and lactation: A systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med 2015;15:40.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.
Roth MM. Pregnancy dermatoses: Diagnosis, management, and controversies. Am J Clin Dermatol 2011;12:25-41.  Back to cited text no. 16
    
17.
Briggs G. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation: A Reference Guide to Fetal and Neonatal Risk. 10 th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014.  Back to cited text no. 17
    
18.
Chi CC, Wang SH, Wojnarowska F, Kirtschig G, Davies E, Bennett C. Safety of topical corticosteroids in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015;10:CD007346.  Back to cited text no. 18
    
19.
Hengge UR, Ruzicka T, Schwartz RA, Cork MJ. Adverse effects of topical glucocorticosteroids. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;54:1-15.  Back to cited text no. 19
    
20.
Alabdulrazzaq F, Koren G. Topical corticosteroid use during pregnancy. Can Fam Physician 2012;58:643-4.  Back to cited text no. 20
    
21.
Chi CC, Kirtschig G, Aberer W, Gabbud JP, Lipozencic J, Kárpáti S, et al. Evidence-based (S3) guideline on topical corticosteroids in pregnancy. Br J Dermatol 2011;165:943-52.  Back to cited text no. 21
    
22.
Schuster O, Menke G, Czichowsky H, Loew D. Pharmacokinetics of crotamiton following topical application to healthy male volunteers. J Dermatolog Treat 1992;3:57-60.  Back to cited text no. 22
    
23.
Wolverton SE. Comprehensive Dermatologic Drug Therapy. 3 rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012.  Back to cited text no. 23
    
24.
Diamantis SA, Morrell DS, Burkhart CN. Treatment of head lice. Dermatol Ther 2009;22:273-8.  Back to cited text no. 24
    
25.
Murase JE, Heller MM, Butler DC. Safety of dermatologic medications in pregnancy and lactation: Part I. Pregnancy. J Am Acad Dermatol 2014;70:401.e1-14.  Back to cited text no. 25
    
26.
Hay RJ, Steer AC, Engelman D, Walton S. Scabies in the developing world - Its prevalence, complications, and management. Clin Microbiol Infect 2012;18:313-23.  Back to cited text no. 26
    
27.
DPT Laboratories. Sklice package insert; 2012. Available from: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/202736s000lbl.pdf. [Last accessed on 2016 Mar 05].  Back to cited text no. 27
    
28.
Pacqué M, Muñoz B, Poetschke G, Foose J, Greene BM, Taylor HR. Pregnancy outcome after inadvertent ivermectin treatment during community-based distribution. Lancet 1990;336:1486-9.  Back to cited text no. 28
    
29.
Chippaux JP, Gardon-Wendel N, Gardon J, Ernould JC. Absence of any adverse effect of inadvertent ivermectin treatment during pregnancy. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 1993;87:318.  Back to cited text no. 29
    
30.
Leachman SA, Reed BR. The use of dermatologic drugs in pregnancy and lactation. Dermatol Clin 2006;24:167-97, vi.  Back to cited text no. 30
    
31.
Dourmishev AL, Dourmishev LA, Schwartz RA. Ivermectin: Pharmacology and application in dermatology. Int J Dermatol 2005;44:981-8.  Back to cited text no. 31
    
32.
Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals. Lindane package insert; 2007. Available from: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=770415b2-4555-4abc-b5d6-c67dfb07ab30. [Last accessed on 2015 Feb 26].  Back to cited text no. 32
    
33.
Sircar S, Lahiri P. Lindane (gamma-HCH) causes reproductive failure and fetotoxicity in mice. Toxicology 1989;59:171-7.  Back to cited text no. 33
    
34.
Palmer AK, Bottomley AM, Worden AN, Frohberg H, Bauer A. Effect of lindane on pregnancy in the rabbit and rat. Toxicology 1978;9:239-47.  Back to cited text no. 34
    
35.
Palmer AK, Cozens DD, Spicer EJ, Worden AN. Effects of lindane upon reproductive function in a 3-generation study in rats. Toxicology 1978;10:45-54.  Back to cited text no. 35
    
36.
FDA. Lindane Assessment Memorandum; 2003. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/UCM110853. [Last accessed on 2016 Feb 26].  Back to cited text no. 36
    
37.
Tyler KH. Dermatologic therapy in pregnancy. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2015;58:112-8.  Back to cited text no. 37
    
38.
Taro Pharmaceuticals. Ovide package insert; 2011. Available from: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018613s017lbl.pdf. [Last accessed on 2016 Feb 26].  Back to cited text no. 38
    
39.
Grether JK, Harris JA, Neutra R, Kizer KW. Exposure to aerial malathion application and the occurrence of congenital anomalies and low birthweight. Am J Public Health 1987;77:1009-10.  Back to cited text no. 39
    
40.
Thomas D, Goldhaber M, Petitti D, Swan S, Rappaport E, Hertzpicciotto I. Reproductive outcomes in women exposed to malathion. Am J Epidemiol 1990;132:794-5.  Back to cited text no. 40
    
41.
Eskenazi B, Harley K, Bradman A, Weltzien E, Jewell NP, Barr DB, et al. Association of in utero organophosphate pesticide exposure and fetal growth and length of gestation in an agricultural population. Environ Health Perspect 2004;112:1116-24.  Back to cited text no. 41
    
42.
Eskenazi B, Marks AR, Bradman A, Harley K, Barr DB, Johnson C, et al. Organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurodevelopment in young Mexican-American children. Environ Health Perspect 2007;115:792-8.  Back to cited text no. 42
    
43.
Nash B. Extracts from "Best Treatments": Treating head lice. Br Med J 2003;326:1256.  Back to cited text no. 43
    
44.
Lee A, Inch S, Finnigan D. Therapeutics in Pregnancy and Lactation. Abingdon, OX: Radcliffe Medical Press; 2000.  Back to cited text no. 44
    
45.
Rubin PC, Ramsey M. Prescribing in Pregnancy. Oxford, UK: Wiley; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 45
    
46.
Connolly M. Recommended management of head lice and scabies. Prescriber 2013;24:17-29.  Back to cited text no. 46
    
47.
Rungsiprakarn P, Laopaiboon M, Sangkomkamhang US, Lumbiganon P. Pharmacological interventions for generalised itching (not caused by systemic disease or skin lesions) in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016;2:CD011351.  Back to cited text no. 47
    
48.
Perrigo Pharmaceuticals. Permethrin package insert; 2015. Available from: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=bdb796aa-a7d1-4476-988f-2b4a9519788f. [Last accessed on 2016 Mar 05].  Back to cited text no. 48
    
49.
Kennedy D, Hurst V, Konradsdottir E, Einarson A. Pregnancy outcome following exposure to permethrin and use of teratogen information. Am J Perinatol 2005;22:87-90.  Back to cited text no. 49
    
50.
Hengge UR, Currie BJ, Jäger G, Lupi O, Schwartz RA. Scabies: A ubiquitous neglected skin disease. Lancet Infect Dis 2006;6:769-79.  Back to cited text no. 50
    
51.
Wozniacka A, Hawro T, Schwartz RA. Bullous scabies: A diagnostic challenge. Cutis 2008;82:350-2.  Back to cited text no. 51
    
52.
Lin AN, Reimer RJ, Carter DM. Sulfur revisited. J Am Acad Dermatol 1988;18:553-8.  Back to cited text no. 52
    
53.
Karthikeyan K. Treatment of scabies: Newer perspectives. Postgrad Med J 2005;81:7-11.  Back to cited text no. 53
    
54.
Díaz M, Cazorla D, Acosta M. Efficacy, safety and acceptability of precipitated sulphur petrolatum for topical treatment of scabies at the city of Coro, Falcon State, Venezuela. Rev Invest Clin 2004;56:615-22.  Back to cited text no. 54
    
55.
Parapro LLC. Natroba package insert; 2014. Available from: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=fa90ccc8-2df0-49f7-8878-2b33e34cd272. [Last accessed on 2016 Mar 05].  Back to cited text no. 55
    
56.
Cole SW, Lundquist LM. Spinosad for treatment of head lice infestation. Ann Pharmacother 2011;45:954-9.  Back to cited text no. 56
    

What is new?
Although there are many topical drugs available for treating scabies and lice in pregnancy, permethrin has greater evidence of safety in pregnancy.



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2]



 

Top
Print this article  Email this article
 
 
  Search
 
  
    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Article in PDF (288 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  


    Abstract
   Introduction
    Topical Anti-sca...
    References
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    Viewed3138    
    Printed52    
    Emailed0    
    PDF Downloaded230    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal