Today more and more kids are spending time in daycare settings, which can leave them exposed to a greater number of germs and bacteria. Because children’s immune systems are still developing, they may not be equipped to deal with bacterial infections that are often preventable. One of the most common bacterial issues children face is impetigo. Impetigo is a result of either strep (streptococcus) or staph (staphylococcus) infections. So, how can you recognize impetigo and more importantly, what are some steps you can take to effectively treat an infection?
Impetigo is a contagious bacterial skin infection that enters the skin through a cut or scrape. Children are often more susceptible to impetigo because of their active lifestyle, which may result in minor cuts or scrapes, and their developing immune system. The infection can enter the body through scratching itchy skin (eczema) or as a result of contact sports that may leave scratches, such as wrestling or football. Impetigo is curable with antibiotics, but identifying impetigo early can be crucial in preventing the spread of the bacteria to other children.
While impetigo can look vastly different, there are three forms of impetigo:
- Impetigo often expresses itself as a red sore near the nose or mouth. This sore will often break open, leak a clear fluid, form a gold scab and will eventually heal without scarring. Scratching or itching the sore spot is not recommended and can spread the infection. For a quick solution, simply put a small bandage over the infected area to prevent your child from spreading the bacteria to other children. Along with your child, pick out a bandage that has their favorite cartoon or character. A child will be more likely to keep the bandage on the infected area if the bandage contains a character they like
- Another expression of the impetigo infection is bullous impetigo. Bullous impetigo is common in children under two and is the result of a certain strain of staph that releases toxins that target the skin. Medium to large fluid filled blisters, which form yellow scabs after breaking, appear at the infected sight. The impacted area is usually red and itchy, but not typically sore.
- Ecthyma is more severe form of impetigo. This type of skin rash forms painful fluid-filled sores on the arms and legs. This type of impetigo can develop into ulcers that may penetrate deeper down into the skin. After sores break open, they form thick gray-yellow scabs that can result in scarring.
Impetigo on its own is not dangerous, just itchy and irritating and localized to the skin. However, if left untreated, scarring can occur as a result of the infection. It is always best to consult your primary care physician if you are concerned that your child may be developing a form of impetigo. Treatment can range from keeping the area clean (mild infection) to cream prescription and antibiotics to combat the infection. Impetigo is highly responsive to treatment. As with all infections, prevention measures are the best means of ensuring your child stays safe and does not develop a form of impetigo.
If your child does develop an infection, some preventative measures can be taken to shorten the effects and combat the bacteria. Here are some things you can do to shorten the infection:
- Ensure your child’s belongings are cleaned and isolated from other children. It is all of our responsibility to ensure bacterial infections do not spread to other children. Cleaning and isolating their belongs helps ensure other children are not exposed to the bacteria and do not develop an infection.
- Wash the infected area, you and your child’s hands, and daily items such as towels, clothes, bedspreads and toiletries. This additional washing may be more time consuming, but frequently cleaning can help to eliminate the bacteria and prevent further spreading.
- Misty Rowlison, Director of St. David's Children's Hospital