What’s causing those sores?
One morning, your child wakes up and you notice that they have small red blisters underneath their nose. A day or so later, you notice that the blisters opened and there seems to be a crust formed over the top of the area. You take your child to the doctor and find out that they have impetigo. What is it? Why is it concerning? What do you need to do?
Impetigo is a skin infection that is caused by Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes, which are the same bacteria that can cause strep throat. It’s highly contagious and common, particularly in young children. The most common symptom are red sores that rupture and ooze. After a few days, the sores stop oozing and a honey-colored crust forms over the top. Typically, the sores aren’t itchy or painful, but it’s easy for the fluid to be spread from them to other surfaces where it can survive for weeks. The sores typically appear on your child’s face around their nose and/or mouth. These sores can also appear on their hands and feet if they come into contact with the infected fluid. One type can result in large blisters on the torso is bullous impetigo, but it isn’t as common. Another, more serious, type is ecthyma and causes fluid or pus-filled sores to develop and these often turn into deep ulcers that are extremely painful.
At the first sign of impetigo, you should take your child to the doctor. Most often, it’s treated with antibiotic ointment or cream. In order for it to penetrate into the sore, you will need to remove any scabs. The best way to do this is by soaking them in warm water. Warm compresses are also helpful in doing this. If your child has numerous sores, their doctor might recommend oral antibiotics as well. A few important things to remember are to keep your child away from others until they are no longer contagious, which is usually at least 24 hours after they start treatment. If they are given oral antibiotics, make sure that they take all of them as instructed. Do not save any. Be sure to wash their and your hands frequently. Encourage them to not to touch sores. Use gloves when applying the ointment/cream, but still wash your hands after disposing of the gloves. Also, every day wash any clothing, linen or towels that they use and don’t allow others to use them before doing so. Wipe down any hard surfaces with antibacterial disinfectants. Even though it’s not usually itchy, it’s a good idea to cut their fingernails short to prevent them from damaging their skin due to scratching.
The best way to prevent impetigo is to wash your and your child’s hands thoroughly and frequently. Try to limit to the best of your ability the number of cuts, scrapes, insect bites and other wounds they end up with where the bacteria can enter their body. If they do end up with any of these, wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible. Disinfect hard surfaces and wash clothing, linen and towels frequently. If they have impetigo, keep them away from others until they are no longer contagious to prevent spreading it to others.
Impetigo can be frustrating to deal with, but the good news is that it can be managed and will go away. If you have any questions or concerns about impetigo, please speak with your child’s doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s impetigo page at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/contagious-skin-diseases/impetigo