Description: Impetigo is seen on the skin as a honey-colored scab covering a blistery rash. It is often seen on the face around the mouth or nose. It may also be seen in the genital area as soft blisters.
Cause: Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin that is usually caused by a mixture of streptococcus and staphylococcus. It is very common for impetigo to start under the nose or mouth when someone has had a runny nose. The skin can break down and have small lesions where infection can be spread. However, impetigo can be seen on any area of the skin, and is spread from direct contact. Touching an object containing the infective bacteria and then touching an area of the skin that has a break in it can cause impetigo to appear. Sometimes the break on the skin is very small, and you may not know it is there.
Expected course: Impetigo usually starts as small red bumps that rapidly change to cloudy blisters, then pimples, and finally sores. The lesions ooze a fluid that dries on the skin and causes a golden crusting or scab over the infected area. Sores spread in size and in number, and they may drain pus. With proper treatment, the skin will heal completely in 1 week. Some discoloration of the skin may remain for 6 to 12 months, but scars are unusual unless your child picks at the sores.
Home care and treatment
Antibiotic ointment: When you notice that an area of skin on your child is becoming red and it seems to be becoming infected, you can apply antibiotic ointment to the area to try to clear it up before it gets too bad. You can purchase something such as Polysporin or Triple Antibiotic Ointment over the counter. If over-the-counter ointment does not work, the doctor can prescribe an antibiotic call Bactroban, which has specialized coverage. If you have some of this on hand, you can apply that. Apply the ointment 4 times per day.
Oral antibiotic: Sometimes the doctor will prescribe an oral antibiotic to clear up the infection. If this is the case with your child, give the antibiotic as directed until it is all gone. You may also be advised to apply ointment at the same time until the area is completely clear.
Preventing the impetigo from spreading: Every time your child touches the impetigo and then scratches another part of the skin with that finger, he/she can start a new site of impetigo. To prevent this, discourage your child from touching or picking at the sores. Keep your child's fingernails cut short, and wash his/her hands frequently.
Contagiousness: Impetigo is quite contagious. Be certain that other people in the family do not use your child's towel or washcloth. Your child should be kept out of school until he/she has taken oral antibiotics for 24 hours or until you have used antibiotic ointment for 48 hours, and the impetigo is not showing signs of continuing to spread.
Call the office...
During regular office hours if:
* The impetigo increases in size and number of sores after 48 hours of treatment.
* A fever or sore throat occurs
* Other children in the family develop lesions that don't improve with antibiotic ointment, alone.
* You have other concerns or questions.