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Impetigo In Children: Causes, Treatment And Signs

Does your child has red, itchy blisters on the face? It could be impetigo. Read on to know more.

What is impetigo?

Impetigo is contagious skin infection caused by bacteria. It results in blisters and sores. Generally, it appears around the mouth and nose at first but it can spread to other parts of the body as well. Depending on the type of impetigo, the blisters might be tiny, red, itchy and could burst easily (non-bullous impetigo) or larger, fluid-filled and take a few days to burst (Bullous impetigo). Once the blisters are burst and dried, a yellow-brown crust will form. It will gradually heal without leaving any scars.

Why are kids vulnerable to Impetigo?

Though adults too can catch impetigo, children are highly vulnerable to it due to their less developed immune systems and close physical contact with one another in nurseries and schools. This makes children primary victims and carriers of impetigo.

Children are more likely to develop impetigo when their skin is already irritated by another problem, such as cuts or scrapes, poison ivy, eczema and even an insect bite.

Causes of impetigo
1. Bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus or A streptococcus

S. aureus exists harmlessly on the human skin and A streptococcus exist in the normal mouth flora. These bacteria could either colonize on a perfectly normal skin without a site of entry (called as Primary Impetigo) or these bacteria could take the advantage of a break in the skin or cut on the skin caused by other skin conditions or infections such as an open wound or a scratch or eczema, insect bites and invade the skin and colonize (Called as Secondary Impetigo). Either way, it results in blisters formation.

2. Being in contact with the infected person:

Most of the Impetigo cases are due to physical contact with an already infected person. It could be spread even by sharing the clothes, beds, towels or other objects. This is also the main cause of Impetigo in children considering the very nature of childhood which includes much physical contact with other children and large-group activities.

Other Factors that could affect the growth of Impetigo causing bacteria:

-Poor hygiene such as lack of washing of hands often supports the spread of bacteria.

-Hot humid weather provides the required environment for disease-causing bacteria.

-Close crowded working or living conditions promote Impetigo.

-Sports involving skin-to-skin contact such as football, wrestling could cause Impetigo.

Signs and Symptoms of Impetigo:

-Impetigo starts after 10 days from the skin infection.

-Impetigo causes rashes characterized by a patch of small blisters appearing mainly on the face but also on exposed areas of legs and arms.

-The blisters break into red, moist areas that ooze the fluid.

-Dark and honey-coloured crust resembling the grains of brown sugar forms after the pustules burst.

-In extreme cases, the infection could develop into ecthyma where the infection invades a deeper layer of skin and forms small, pus-filled ulcers which may cause permanent scars if left untreated.

What are the treatments for impetigo?
1. Topical antibiotics:

Impetigo could be treated with topical antibiotics for 5 to 7 days. It could be applied only where needed. This minimizes the systemic side effects. The specific topical antibiotics recommended are mupirocin and fusidic acid.

2. Oral antibiotics:

In severe cases, oral antibiotics are prescribed. Though these could treat more effectively than topical antibiotics, they have more side-effects such as nausea.

3. Personal hygiene:

Following personal hygiene such as washing with soap and warm water could soothe the itchiness and clear up the mild forms of impetigo. Severe cases could be treated by washing the infected area with antibacterial soap and also following up with an appropriate medical treatment.

4. Home treatment: cleaning and soaking

Cleaning the sores with warm water and soap and removing the crusts gently exposes the bacteria underneath. This helps in controlling the infection. Dry the area and apply some antibiotic ointment and cover it up lightly with gauze.

5. Home treatment: bleach bath

15-minute bleach bath with a dilute solution of household bleach reduces the bacteria level on the skin. This needs to be done regularly to reduce the infection. 

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