You’ve seen pictures of humans with impetigo on the face. Horrible looking reddish, pinkish sores and blisters rounding the mouth and nostril holes. So what happens when your tyke arrives home from preschool or nursery looking like the patients in those pictures?
Impetigo can affect anyone of any age. It is such a common condition that there are over 3 million cases reported every year in the US alone. However, being super contagious, infants, toddlers, and younger kids pick up the infectious rash from classmates at school. The good news? Impetigo isn’t anything to panic about. It is pretty harmless, as well as remarkably easy to cure.
What Causes Impetigo?
The ugly condition emerges from one of two bacteria—either Staphylococcus aureus (colloquially, staph) and/or the infamous Streptococcus pyogenes (strep). Most people will transport these pathogens around with them without even knowing. It is only when they get a graze, small cut, a piercing bug bite, or a poison ivy reaction when the opportunistic bacteria produces an infection resulting in impetigo. This further explains why the condition is seen in youngsters as they’re more prone to scrapes and gashes. Toxins are produced that force the upper skin surface to break apart, forming yucky blisters.
Staph and strep travel back and forth between people through bodily contact. Not just obvious, physical touching of the infected blister. Even inanimate items will transfer these infections—clothes, bath or beach towels, bed dressings, and even toys.
Impetigo on the Face
Impetigo frequents the face most often. It’s also the place where it is most noticeable. It can appear downright disgusting and in certain instances, may provoke itching sensations. The main areas where impetigo can materialize on the face include:
Impetigo on the Chin
Cherry dots speckled on and around the chin and mouth commonly indicate impetigo. These lumps soon become blisters that explode and create a yellow crusty scab.
Impetigo on the chin is slightly itchy. Forbid your nails from scratching, as this promotes the spread of impetigo to the neck.
Impetigo on the Mouth
How often do you catch yourself putting a hand to your mouth? The answer is probably multitudinous throughout the day! This is how impetigo gets transferred to the region around and near the mouth. Touching your mouth allows the infection to spread at breakneck speed.
Impetigo on the Lips
Ruby red or pink lip spots are often be mistaken for cold sores. It’s important the correct diagnosis is achieved, as treatment options for cold sores differ from those treating impetigo on the lips.
Impetigo Around the Eye
Several eye problems stemming from bacterial infections can initiate impetigo. For example, eyelid cellulitis starts as swelling and redness of the adjacent area. If this converts to a staph bacterium infection, symptoms of impetigo will appear around the eye. As rubbing the eyes is an instinctive action, the infection can hastily wander.
Impetigo on the Scalp
Impetigo rarely affects just one singular place. If you have it, dutifully check for symptoms all over. You may not see impetigo on the scalp when glancing in the mirror, but blisters, lesions, and sores can pop up beneath the hair.
Bacteria will stealthily slide into hair follicles, resulting in unfortunate impetigo. You may also feel symptoms where the hairline kisses the forehead.
Impetigo in the Nose
The inside of the nose is a proverbial haven for bacteria, including notorious staph and strep. The nasal cavities routinely foster impetigo. Symptoms will develop inside and under the nose.
Impetigo of the Ear
Infections can transmit to anywhere there’s broken skin—making the ear unsafe. Pinky spots, blisters, or crusty patches may show impetigo of the ear.
Impetigo on the Neck
Staph impetigo often thrives in skin folds. Commonly found in newborns babies, impetigo on the neck develops in their neck folds. These are usually paired with impetigo symptoms in the diaper region.
Symptoms of Impetigo
As we’ve seen, impetigo can present itself in many places near the skull and profile. Initial symptoms are clumps of reddish sores or tiny blisters. The patch can range from the size of a pea to a walnut. These tiny blisters swell quickly before bursting, leaving scaly, yellowish, brownish patches which resemble Kellogg’s cornflakes. Breakfast just got a lot tastier.
Sometimes, itchiness and pain may accompany symptoms. Once crusting disappears, the red marks left behind will fade with time.
Treatment of Impetigo
While a completely harmless (albeit transmissible) benign condition, Impetigo causes no lasting harm. Even so, it’s always best to seek medical advice on the best course of treatment.
The cure for impetigo is typically antibiotics. Mupirocin (Bactroban) in cream or ointment form is highly effective in reducing symptoms and treating the infection. If the impetigo has spread, your doctor may recommend orally ingested antibiotics like Amoxicillin—ear drops for impetigo of the ear or a nasal spray for nose infections.
Most importantly—stop impetigo in its tracks. Make your child stay home from school, especially for the first 48 hours when they’re most contagious.
Preventing Future Impetigo
Crucially, hygiene is of utmost importance Impetigo Prevention 101. If one family member contracts impetigo, everyone must follow the same rigorous hygienic routine. Wash hands regularly with antibacterial soaps. Avoid sharing unwashed outfits, duvets, blankets, sheets, and towels. Keep the infected area covered. Maintaining a clean environment hinders impetigo from spreading to the whole household.
Impetigo is both effectively manageable and treatable. If your child brings home nasty sores and scabs, they may have contracted impetigo. It’ll be uncomfortable for a while but their smooth, clear, babyish angelic features will return. Just remember to take immediate steps to prevent others from catching it.
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