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Overview of Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection that mostly affects infant and young children. In the disease red sores and blisters appear on the face, especially around the nose and mouth. 

Impetigo are two types:

Bullous impetigo – This causes large, painless, fluid-filled sores that last for a few days. 
Non-bullous impetigo – More contagious of the two, non- bullous impetigo causes sores that burst quickly.


Symptoms of impetigo

The symptoms for impetigo are mostly clearly visible. The foremost sign are small fluid-filled sores. They maybe sometimes difficult to spot as they burst relatively fast, leaving behind a yellow, golden or honey colored crust. More such sores and blisters may develop closer to the initial infection. The spots will eventually dry out and the scabs will fall off to leave red marks, which will gradually disappear – without leaving a scar. Impetigo can sometimes be itchy. 


Causes of impetigo

Impetigo is usually caused due to a bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus. However, in hot climates another bacterium by the name of Streptococcus pyogenes may be at work. In some cases both the types of bacteria can infect a person. The bacterium is highly contagious, which means spreads very easily from one person to another. Generally skin-to-skin contact is enough to transmit the germs and can also happen when sharing bedding, clothing and towels. Impetigo can spread rapidly through families and schools, however it can spontaneously appear with no link to where it came from. 

The bacterium that causes impetigo can affect normal skin, but can thrive if the skin is already damaged by cuts or grazes, insect bites, amongst others.

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Risk factors for impetigo

The risk for getting Impetigo is higher at a younger age and is mostly common in children aged 2 to 6. The bacterium also spreads rapidly and easily in crowded conditions and warm, humid weather is perfect for it to multiply. It is often seen that participation in contact sports also increases the chance of the bacteria spreading. 


Diagnosis of impetigo

Diagnosing and determining impetigo is easy since most the symptoms are clearly visible to a doctor. Almost all cases of impetigo is diagnosed through physical examination but in some cases to be sure a doctor may call for culture of the affected region to determine the type of bacteria. A doctor will also try to eliminate the possibility of similar skin conditions like cellulites, erysipelas, herpes simplex virus, scabies, ecthyma and chickenpox amongst others.


Treatment of impetigo

Antibiotics are the mainstay of impetigo treatments. It is important that the area of infection is frequently washed to prevent spreading of infection and keep it germ free. Oral or topical antibiotics are usually given in almost all cases of Impetigo and using medicated soaps with benzoyl peroxide is also help. Anti bactericidal ointment, such as mupirocin, and oral antibiotics, such as dicloxacillin, flucloxacillin or erythromycin is also helpful. Alternatively amoxicillin combined with clavulanate potassium, cephalosporins are used as an antibiotic treatment. 


Prevention of impetigo

Impetigo is highly contagious and it is important to maintain a good personal hygiene.

Some steps are: 

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Do not share towels, linen or bath soap
  • Wash clothes, towels and sheets regularly
  • Do not touch, scratch or burst the sores.
  • Clean the affected area gently with face wash.
  • If you have damaged skin or a cut, keep it covered with a waterproof dressing. 

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: August 01, 2013