If you have children, you’ve probably dealt with impetigo. This painful skin infection is most commonly spread in elementary schools, although it can be picked up by anyone. It’s most common in warm, humid months, since the bacteria can survive longer. Here’s the information you need to avoid or treat this nasty infection!
Impetigo (Impetigo contagiosa) is an itchy and sometimes painful infection of the outer layers of skin. It is especially common in young children. The infection is caused by bacteria and is very contagious. Children who have it should not go to daycare, kindergarten or school, where they might infect other children.
The early signs of impetigo usually appear around the mouth and nose: an itchy reddish rash with liquid-filled blisters that burst very easily. The burst blisters form yellowish crusts, which then later fall off without leaving behind any scars.
Causes and risk factors
Impetigo is usually caused by staphylococcus (staph) bacteria, but it also can be caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. Skin infections are usually caused by different types (strains) of strep bacteria than those that cause strep throat. Therefore, the types of strep germs that cause impetigo are usually different from those that cause strep throat.
Impetigo is most common among children ages 2 to 6 years, but it can affect anyone. It is more common in the summer, because the warm, humid air helps the bacteria survive for longer periods of time. Impetigo usually starts when bacteria get into a cut, scratch, or insect bite.
The infection is spread by direct contact with lesions (wounds or sores) or nasal discharge from an infected person. Scratching may spread the lesions. It usually takes 1 to 3 days from the time of infection until you show symptoms. If your skin doesn’t have breaks in it, you can’t be infected by dried strep bacteria in the air.
Symptoms start with red or pimple-like lesions surrounded by reddened skin. These sores can be anywhere on your body, but mostly on your face, arms, and legs. The sores fill with pus, then break open after a few days and form a thick crust. Itching is common.
Your healthcare provider can diagnose the infection by looking at the skin lesions. If your impetigo is caused by strep bacteria, your healthcare provider will prescribe oral antibiotics, as with strep throat. This treatment may also include an antibiotic ointment to be used on your skin.
How to avoid Impetigo
While you can’t tell if dried impetigo bacteria are in the air around you, you can be aware of the legions on others. The impetigo wounds often occur in public areas, like on the face, hands, or feet. Avoid contact with an infected person’s wound, and wear gloves if you are treating them. Impetigo can quickly spread to a mother or father from a child, so make sure you wash your hands often and thoroughly when helping your child bandage their legions. It’s important to make sure you have no open cuts or insect bites while dealing with an infected person– even a small cut on your hand can be enough to catch the infection. Wear gloves just to be safe.
Thankfully, impetigo is easily treated with Mupirocin, an antibiotic ointment available at many pharmacies without a prescription.
If you’re looking for a herbal cure, try anti-bacterial Tea Tree oil mixed with a little olive oil to act as a salve. Apply to the affected area, leave to soak in and lightly massage. Repeat up to three times a day.