Impetigo

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Impetigo is a skin infection most often seen in children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. However, it can occur at any age. In adults it is most often seen after a cold or other virus. It is usually caused by the staphylcoccus bacteria but can also be caused by the streptococcus bacteria - the same bacteria that causes strep throat. It is the most common skin disease in children.

    Impetigo is characterized by blisters on the skin, usually found around the face, lips, arms or legs. The blisters are filled with pus and easily break. The area around the blister may be red. Once the blister breaks, a yellowish-brown crust covers the area. Impetigo caused by strep bacteria may not have blisters but crusts appear over larger sores or ulcers.

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    Impetigo frequently occurs around a break in the skin - from an injury, bug bite, rash such as poison ivy, eczema - that has been repeatedly scratched. It is also highly contagious and can travel from child to child through direct contact with the lesions, nasal discharge and clothing or linens that have been touched the infected skin . It can spread from the original location on the skin to other parts of the body from scratching and then touching other places that have a break in the skin.  

    Treatment

    The first line treatment for impetigo is usually antibiotic creams or ointments. If this doesn’t help or if the impetigo has spread to several areas on the body, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics.

    In addition to antibiotic treatment, infected areas should be washed with antiseptic soap several times each day. Areas that have crusted can be soaked in warm, soapy water to help remove some of the crust. Covering infected areas with gauze can help your child to not scratch the area and spread it to other parts of the body.

    Keep linens, towels and clothing used by your child separate as sharing these can spread the impetigo to other family members. Wash these in hot water. Make sure each family member uses a separate towel and washcloth. You may want to use paper towels instead of hand towels until the impetigo is gone.  If your child attends school or day-care, you may need to keep him or her home until the rash is gone.

    Impetigo rarely leaves any scars but the lesions may heal slowly. It may reappear in young children.

    Prevention

    Keeping any breaks in the skin clean using soap and water can help. Regular hand washing and keeping fingernails short also helps as bacteria on hands and under fingernails can cause impetigo when open cuts are scratched. You may want to keep any cuts or open sores clean and covered. Make sure your child takes regular baths or showers.

    If you are caring for someone with impetigo, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands with antiseptic soap after touching any lesions.

    References:

    “Diagnosis and Treatment of Impetigo,” 2007, March 15, Charles Cole, M.D., John Gazewood, M.D., American Family Physician

    “Impetigo,” Reviewed 2012, Oct. 5, Reviewed by Linda J. Vorvick, M.D., David Zieve, M.D., A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia

Published On: February 05, 2013