What is Impetigo
Impetigo is a contagious, superficial infection of the skin and it caused by staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria. Impetigo occurs common more in children especially 2- to 5-year-olds than in adults. Impetigo is most likely to appear in warm and humid environments and is most commonly spread by close contact such as family members.
Signs and symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of impetigo include:
- Red sores that quickly rupture, ooze for a few days and then form a yellowish-brown crust
- Painless, fluid-filled blisters
- In the more serious form, painful fluid- or pus-filled sores that turn into deep ulcers
A serious but rare complication of impetigo caused by Strep bacteria is glomerulonephritis, a condition that may cause kidney inflammation. Many specialists are not convinced that treating impetigo will prevent glomerulonephritis from occurring.
Impetigo can be caused by two types of bacteria— Staphylococcus aureus (staph), which is most common, and Streptococcus pyogenes (strep). Both types of bacteria can live harmlessly on your skin until they enter through a cut or other wound and cause an infection.
Usually Impetigo occurs in adults as the result of injury to the skin — often by another dermatological condition such as dermatitis. Children are commonly infected through a cut, scrape or insect bite, but they can also develop impetigo without having any notable damage to the skin.
You're exposed to the bacteria that cause impetigo when you come into contact with the sores of someone who's infected or with items they've touched, such as clothing, bed linen, towels and even toys. Once you're infected, you can easily spread the infection to others. Staph bacteria produce a toxin that causes impetigo to spread to nearby skin. The toxin attacks a protein that helps bind skin cells together. Once this protein is damaged, bacteria can spread quickly.
As impetigo is contagious which means it can be passed on by touching you should:
- Try not to touch patches of impetigo, and do not allow other children to touch them.
- Wash your hands after touching a patch of impetigo, and after applying antibiotic cream.
- Don't share towels, flannels, bathwater, etc, until the infection has gone.
- Children should be kept off school or nursery until there is no more blistering or crusting, or until 48 hours after antibiotic treatment has been started.
- To prevent the impetigo returning, keep cuts and scratches clean, and ensure that any condition that causes broken skin, such as eczema, is treated promptly.
As impetigo is a highly contagious condition, it is very important to take hygiene precautions to stop the infection spreading to other people.
Sometimes the impetigo will clear without treatment after 2-3 weeks. But, treatment is usually advised as it is contagious, and severe infection sometimes develops.
An antibiotic cream used for 7-10 days is the usual treatment if there are only a few small patches of impetigo on the skin. The crusts should be cleaned off with warm soapy water before applying the cream. This allows the antibiotic to penetrate into the skin. Antibiotic liquid medicine or tablets may be prescribed in some situations. For example, if the rash is more widespread, or if you have a poor immune system, or if you are generally unwell with symptoms such as fever and swollen lymph glands.