Children pick up all kinds of different health issues at school or daycare, and seeing them come home covered in oozing blisters can be traumatic. If the sores turn out to be impetigo, you can relax, as it is a common skin complaint among kids. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications for the treatment of impetigo.
The blisters and sores that show up are with impetigo are caused by a bacterial skin infection, with the most commonly infected areas being on the face, neck, hands, and diaper region. Pediatrician Thomas D. Smith, MD, of the FDA explained that while impetigo is contagious, it is also preventable and manageable.
The Causes of Impetigo
The skin contains two types of bacteria that are responsible for impetigo, and they are Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes, the letter of which is also the trigger for strep throat. Most people carry these bacteria without any sort of issue, but a simple cut, scratch, or insect bite can lead to a bacterial infection that results in impetigo.
Anyone, child or adult, can get impetigo, and can suffer from it more than once. It’s an ailment that can hit at any given time, although, it is usually more prevalent in warmer months. In the U.S. alone, roughly 3 million cases of impetigo are seen every single year.
Smith explained that impetigo is most common in children aged 2 to 6 years old, as they are more likely to get the cuts and scrapes that can lead to the spread of bacteria.
Listed below are the most common signs of impetigo:
- Fluid-filled sores that are prone to bursting and forming a yellow crust
- Itchy rashes
- Blisters filled with fluid
You should immediately contact your doctor if you see any of the above symptoms. Your doctor will probably prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to treat the impetigo. Multiple visible lesions are most commonly treated with oral antibiotics. What you will not find is an over the counter impetigo treatment option.
The Control and Prevention of Impetigo
If left untreated, impetigo will clear up in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Smith makes it clear, though, that you need to use soap and water to keep the affected areas clean, and that you do not scratch. The problem with going this route is that the impetigo can spread to other parts of the body.
Perhaps more importantly, you may end up infecting other people. The spread of infection usually comes via close contact as opposed to casual contact. The spread to others can be prevented by doing the following:
- Keeping the infected area clean using soap and water
- Keeping sores and scabs loosely covered until they heal
- Gently remove crusted over scabs
- When you touch an infected area, wash your hands with soap and water
Since impetigo spreads via skin to skin contact, it is not uncommon to see outbreaks in a family or classroom setting. Smith recommends that you avoid using items that people infected with impetigo use. If you have impetigo, try to keep your nails short, as this will prevent the bacteria making home under the nails, making it easier to spread. Also, avoid scratching the sores.
If the symptoms persist or get worse, be sure to call your doctor. Signs of worsening symptoms include increased swelling, pain, and fever.