Since young children are so active, it is not unusual to find a bump or rash somewhere on their body. Most times these abrasions are not cause for concern, but occasionally, a skin condition such as impetigo will require a trip to the pediatrician.
What Is Impetigo?
Impetigo is an extremely contagious skin infection caused by bacteria. It normally develops when the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus gets into healthy skin through a scrape, rash, cut or insect bite. UptoDate, a clinical decision tool, notes that this infection can also be caused by Streptococcus pyogenes or by both bacteria, although this happens less often. This bacterial infection occurs most frequently in children ages 2 to 5 years old and can occur at any time of the year but it is most common during the warmer months when kids are outdoors and more likely to cut or scrape themselves during play.
How Is Impetigo Spread?
Impetigo is spread from person to person through direct skin-to-skin contact. Your child can spread the infection to others by touching them or by touching common surfaces and object. These sores are often itchy and if your child scratches them he can spread the infection to other parts of the body.
Types of Impetigo
The Mayo Clinic notes there are three forms of this common childhood infection:
- Nonbullous impetigo is the most common form of the infection and usually starts out with red or pimple-like sores surrounded by red skin. These bumps are usually found around the nose or mouth but can be spread to other areas of the body. The bumps eventually form into blisters that rupture and ooze, followed by a phase where the blisters are covered with a yellowish-brown colored crust.
- Bullous impetigo, which is a less common form of the infection, features large blisters on the trunk of the body.
- Ecthyma is a more serious form of the infection. It penetrates deeper into the skin which causes painful fluid-or pus-filled sores to turn into ulcers.
UptoDate notes that unlike many infections, fevers are typically not present with impetigo. If your child is experiencing severe pain, has worsening redness, has swelling or loss of appetite, this could indicate a more serious infection and you should discuss these symptoms with your healthcare provider right away.
The severity or extensiveness of your child's infection will dictate whether your pediatrician prescribes a topical cream or ointment or an oral antibiotic.
If your child just has a few infected spots that do not appear to go deep into the skin, your provider may prescribe an antibiotic cream such as Bactroban. This medicine is applied to the infected areas of the skin. It is important to complete the full course of treatment, as prescribed by your provider, to ensure that the infection does not come back.
There are a number of supportive therapies you can implement to help with this bacterial infection. These include:
- Soaking the infected area in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes
- Scrubbing the area with a washcloth and antibacterial soap
- Covering the area to help prevent spreading the infection to other people, or even to other parts of your child's body
- Cutting your child's fingernails to discourage him from scratching the infected area
- Observing the rash for improvement or worsening
Always check with your medical provider for a personalized treatment plan.
Complications from this infection are rare but they can occur. The Mayo Clinic reports that some complications that can occur include:
- Kidney Damage
The best way to prevent impetigo is to keep the skin clean and healthy. To help prevent spreading the infection to others:
- Avoid contact with people who have the condition.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often.
- Do not share personal items such as towels, clothes and linens.
- Launder towels and bed linens in hot water, and dry using high heat.
- Always use tissues to blow your child's nose.
- Teach your child to sneeze in the crook of his arm and not into his hands. This prevents bacteria in his nose and mouth from spreading.
- Keep your child home from daycare or school until your provider says that he is no longer contagious.
Young children are prone to acquiring viruses and bacterial infections but by implementing good skin-care regimen and prevention measures you can help ensure your child remains symptom-free.