What is impetigo? What causes impetigo?

Impetigo is a contagious skin disease common in children. Strep (streptococcus) and staph (staphylococcus) bacteria have the potential to cause impetigo. The disease usually starts with sores and blisters on the face. A serious form of impetigo that penetrates deeper into the skin is called Ecthyma. It causes deep ulcers and may leave scars.

There are two major forms of impetigo:

Bullous impetigo:  This infection is characterized by large fluid-filled blisters that are often painless.

Non-bullous impetigo: This is considered more infectious than the bullous impetigo. The sores associated with this type of impetigo bursts quickly leaving a yellow-brown crust.

What are the symptoms of impetigo?

Red sores on the face, especially around the nose or mouth is the common symptom of impetigo. If untreated, these sores may spread to other areas of the body.

How is impetigo diagnosed?

Impetigo can be diagnosed by examining the nature of the sores on the face. Once detected, a course of antibiotics is often recommended preventing the spread of infection.

How is impetigo treated?

Impetigo may clear up on its own in a couple of weeks without any treatment. Use of antibiotics can speed up this and prevent the infection from spreading to others.  If the antibiotic treatment doesn't heal sores, a sample of the fluid from the sore will be collected to find out the appropriate antibiotic that works best on it.

Bactericidal ointments, such as fusidic acid (Fucidin) or mupirocin (Bactroban) are used to treat the mild forms of impetigo. Oral antibiotic medication is preferred to treat severe cases of impetigo. Antibiotics used for such treatments include flucloxacillin (eg Floxapen) and erythromycin (eg Erythrocin).

Is there any way to prevent impetigo?

Keep your skin clean: This is the only way to prevent impetigo.

If you have impetigo, make sure that you follow the tips below,

  • Do not  touch the sores.
  • Keep your hands clean.
  • Avoid sharing your personal items such as flannels, sheets and towels with others.
  • Wash your hands before and after applying the antibiotic cream.
  • Cover the infected area.

If your child has been diagnosed with impetigo, avoid sending the child to school until he/she is completely recovered.