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Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial infection which affects the skin. Children are the most affected causing red sores. These sores release fluid that crystallizes to form honey colour crust. These sores can develop on any part of the body. Impetigo is one of the most common skin infections in children. Its occurrence in adults is not comparable to that in children. Because it is contagious, it can be spread to others through close contact or by sharing towels, sheets, clothing, toys, or other items. Scratching can also spread the sores to other parts of the body.

Impetigo is caused by two different strains of bacteria:

  • Streptococcus pyogene.
  • Staphylococcus aureus.

These bacteria are able to penetrate the system when the skin is broken as a result a wound or irritated by other skin conditions which may include eczema, poison ivy, insect bites, burns, or cuts. Children may get impetigo after they have had a cold or allergies that have made the skin under the nose raw. But impetigo can also develop in completely healthy skin.

There are various types of impetigo which are being distinguished by their different symptoms and causes. They are:

Bullous impetigo: This is most the common form of impetigo in children under the age of two. Blisters usually appear first on the torso, arms, and legs. These blisters may initially appear clear then later turn cloudy. Blisters caused by bullous impetigo tend to last longer than blisters caused by other types of impetigo. The areas around the blisters may be red and itchy.

Ecthyma: This is the most serious form of impetigo because it affects the second layer of the skin, rather than just the top layer. Its blisters are usually very painful and may turn into ulcers, or aggravated, open sores. Swollen lymph nodes and scars may also occur.

Impetigo contagiosa: This is the most common type of impetigo in children. It is very contagious hence the name contagiosa. It usually begins with red sores around the nose and mouth. And it may be known as non-bullous impetigo. These blisters burst, leaving a weeping, red rash that becomes crusted. This rash may be itchy but is not painful. Swollen lymph nodes (bean shaped glands that help your body fight infection) may also occur with impetigo contagiosa.

The symptoms can be a nuisance especially when it occurs on the face. However, the manifestations of the symptoms vary due to the various types of impetigo. Generally, the symptoms may include the following:

  • red sores that pop easily and leave a yellow crust
  • fluid-filled blisters
  • itchy rash
  • skin lesions
  • swollen lymph nodes

Some children are likely to develop the disease than the others and this could be as a result of certain factors which may include:

  • Children between two to six years of age
  • Children regularly attending a daycare or school
  • Children with skin irritated by other conditions such as dermatitis
  • Children with poor hygiene
  • Warm weather
  • Children in a crowded environment where bacteria can spread easily
  • Children participating in activities that involve skin-to-skin contact
  • Neonatal diabetes
  • Children with compromised immune system

Impetigo can be easily diagnosed through physical examination. Other tests that may be done will include:

  • Culture and sensitivity of the crust,

Sometimes, blood and urine tests may be requested in order to rule out other illnesses.

Impetigo is treatable with antibiotics. For cases of mild impetigo, topical antibiotic ointment or cream may be prescribed to put on the sores but in severe cases, antibiotic caplets may be prescribed. The prognosis is usually good and the children can return to school immediately after completing the treatment. In some cases, the sores totally disappear after a week of treatment. For effective treatment with the cream, the crust may need to be removed so that the cream can be applied thoroughly. At home, a caked crust can be soften by soaking in warm water and clean off with towel after some minutes. Ensure that the crusts are not handled with bear hands and handling the crust, the hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.

Impetigo is a disturbing skin disorder. Once the blisters develop, it is itchy and thus scratching the sores can spread the infection to other areas of the body and even the body of others. Washing a child’s hands with soap and water and any other hands that may have come in contact with the discharge from the blisters helps to prevent spreading the infection. Things to do may include:

  • washing hands regularly
  • bathing or showering regularly
  • cleaning and covering any injuries to the skin

If you have impetigo, there are several things you should do to prevent it from spreading to other areas of the body, as well as to other individuals. These include:

  • use of antibacterial soap to wash hands
  • use of a clean towel or fresh paper towel to dry the body or hands
  • washing linens and clothes in hot water
  • cleaning surface areas in the home with antibacterial products
  • keeping fingernails short
  • avoiding schools and childcare centers while infection is contagious
  • not sharing personal hygiene items such as towel, clothes,

Impetigo. (2014, June). Impetigo (n.d.). Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013, May 15). Impetigo.

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