Q: This is the 3rd time that my 4 yr old has had to be treated for impetigo. How can it be prevented?
Impetigo is a relatively common and contagious bacterial skin infection that mainly affects young children. With the right treatment it seldom lasts more than 7-10 days.
The bacteria which most commonly cause impetigo are Group A Streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus. These bacteria are spread from person to person either by the non-infected person coming into contact with the sores and/or the fluid from the sores of an infected person.
While impetigo can occur on any part of the skin, it is most common in the exposed areas of the body such as the face, arms and legs.
Factors which increase the risk of contracting impetigo include:
- Children between the ages of 2 and 6 years
- Breaks in the skin such as scratches, bruises, and cuts
- Overcrowded spaces increase the chances of transmitting impetigo
- When the ambient surroundings are hot and humid the germs which cause impetigo thrive.
- Poor personal hygiene: Inadequate handwashing, body washing, and facial cleanliness can increase someone’s risk of getting impetigo.
- Insect bites
- Poor diet
- A weakened immune system
Symptoms & Signs
- Itchy sores, especially on face, arms and legs
- These sores ooze a clear to amber fluid
- In the final stages of the healing process a yellow crusty scab is present
- The lesions mostly heal without noticeable scarring. However, in some instances, especially on the legs, discoloration of the skin can be seen long after the sores have healed.
This is made by way of a physical examination. Rarely are lab tests ever needed or carried out.
Topical or oral antibiotics are the treatment of choice for impetigo. The number of lesions often determine which mode of treatment is used. If there are many lesions, an oral antibiotic is often given. However, when there are only a few lesions, an antibiotic ointment or cream is preferred.
- The infection can spread into the surrounding skin tissue resulting in a cellulitis
- Scarring and discoloration of skin
- In extremely rare instances some children may develop kidney complications (glomerulonephritis) which normally starts approximately 2 weeks after the lesions heal.
Reducing spread of impetigo:
- Keep the sores covered
- Child should return to school or nursery only after they have been taking antibiotic for 48 hours
- Discourage child from scratching sores
- An anti histamine may be prescribed to reduce itching
- Fingernails must be kept short
- Frequent handwashing is encouraged
- Do not share towels, washcloths
- Child should not share bed with others
- Disinfect counters, toilet seats, doorknobs and other surfaces
- A clean washcloth and towel should be used with every bath
- Clothes should be washed separately
- All bruises, scratches, scrapes, cuts and minor skin wounds should be cleaned with soap and running water
- Immediately wash off after swimming in a pool
- Wash hands after using toilet
- Do not share towels or clothes
- Cover nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing
- Moisturize dry cracked skin.
Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale, www.familycaresvg.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)
Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care
Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.