Impetigo: Tips for Treatment and Prevention
The symptoms of impetigo are honey-colored, crusty sores that often appear on the face between the upper lip and nose. The rashes consist of red spots or blisters that rupture, discharge and become encrusted. People with impetigo should not scratch the sores because they may inadvertently spread the infection to other parts of their bodies.
Causes of Impetigo
Impetigo usually affects preschool and school-aged children, especially during the summer. This type of infection has a special preference for skin that has been affected by other skin problems, such as eczema, poison ivy or a skin allergy to soap.
This skin infection is caused by one of two bacteria: group A streptococcus, which is the bacteria also responsible for strep throat, or staphylococcus. If impetigo is caused by streptococcus it will begin with tiny blisters that eventually erupt revealing small, wet patches of red skin. Gradually, a tan or yellowish brown crust will cover the affected area giving the appearance that it is coated with honey. If it is caused by staphylococcus, people will notice larger blisters that appear to contain a clear fluid. These blisters stay intact for a longer period of time compared to the smaller ones.
Impetigo is highly contagious and often starts when a small cut or scratch becomes infected.
Impetigo is highly contagious. Children can spread this skin infection from one area of the body to another by touching the infected area and then touching other parts of their bodies. The infection can also spread to other household members through clothing, towels and bed linens that have been in contact with the infected person. Classmates and playmates are also at high risk of infection by coming in contact with the infected person or anything that person has touched.
Treatment and Prevention
Even though impetigo is not dangerous, complications can occur, such as scarring, kidney damage and cellulitis, a potentially serious infection that could become life-threatening if left untreated. However, with proper medical attention, impetigo can be easily treated.
The most important way parents can prevent impetigo is by keeping their child’s skin clean. Osteopathic physicians (DOs) recommend giving your child daily baths or showers with anti-bacterial soap and warm water. They say to pay special attention to areas of the skin with cuts or scrapes, as well as rashes on the skin.
If impetigo is not improved after three days or if any new infected areas appear, a physician should be called immediately. If left unattended, this infection can cause serious problems, such as pain, swelling, tenderness of the infected areas, discharge of pus, or fever.
If the infected areas are relatively small, DOs suggest trying this simple home remedy:
- Soak the infected area in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Scrub the area gently with a washcloth and antibacterial soap.
- Apply antibiotic ointments.
- Cover the area with gauze or a loose plastic bandage, if possible.
Preventing Impetigo from Spreading
One of the main issues with impetigo is preventing it from spreading. For instance, when your child has a runny nose, keep the area between the upper lip and nose clean. The nose is most often the source of impetigo germs. Physicians recommend spreading a thin layer of anti-bacterial ointment under the nose as well as applying it in the nostrils with a Q-tip. These precautions can help eradicate the bacteria that causes the infection.