You are probably asking yourself what is impetigo right? In North America, Canada and Europe, Impetigo is the most common bacterial skin condition prevalent in children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old, but can affect infants and adults too.
This rarely serious yet highly contagious skin infection is more common in people living in warm, humid climates or confined environments and can also be caused by poor hygiene.
When affected, it can be itchy and ugly, and sometimes may lead to more serious skin infections that cause scarring and kidney inflammation.
There are three main types of Impetigo –
1. Non-bullous impetigo (Impetigo contagiosa)
Among the two types of Impetigo, non-bullous impetigo is the most common, and in terms of numbers that’s 70 percent of all cases.
It can be caused by infections, but is mostly caused by S. Aureus bacteria, and starts off as tiny blisters that eventually burst resulting in small wet patches of red skin that may ooze fluid.
2. Bullous impetigo
This type of impetigo generally affects children under the age of 2, and when it does tends to cause medium to large fluid filled blisters that can appear mainly on the legs, trunk and arms, but on other parts of the body as well.
As mentioned earlier, Impetigo is highly contagious and can whip through playgroups, nurseries and families or anywhere that individuals are in close contact therefore young children are more susceptible to risk.
Furthermore, Impetigo can be recurrent, and there are several reasons for this, most notably because the infection has not been completely eliminated, for which a longer course of antibiotics is needed.
This is a more serious form of impetigo, and is characterized by purulent and small puss filled sores that turn into deep ulcers and penetrate deeper into the skin. If left untreated, Ecthyma Impetigo can cause permanent scars and pigment changes.
What Causes Impetigo?
Impetigo is generally contracted by bacteria when your child touches an infected person or other objects such as a towel or toy. Or the bacteria may have already been surfacing on your child’s skin, but then leaked in through a cut or scrape to cause the infection.
Apart from cuts and scrapes, the bacteria can also invade your child’s skin through eczema, cold sores, insect bites other areas where your child’s skin is susceptible to infection.
Impetigo is caused by two types of bacteria namely Staphylococcus Aureus and Streptococcus Pyogenes, where both types can exist harmlessly on your baby’s skin.
Both can cause infection, and although children generally get infected by cuts, scrapes or insect bites, they are also likely to get infected without any noticeable skin damage.
Also known as Staph, this type of bacteria produces a toxin that is carried on the nose or skin of approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of people without causing an infection.
Dubbed colonization, these toxins attack a significant protein that prevents the skin cells from reuniting, and the damage caused to this protein results in the accelerated spread of the bacteria.
The infection can initiate through primary Impetigo or secondary Impetigo, wherein the case of the former, the bacteria affects the skin through a cut, or any other lesion on normal skin.
And in the case of the latter, bacteria invades the skin as a result of another skin infection or condition that has caused damage to the skin barrier such as scabies or eczema. This type of bacteria is resistant to certain antibiotics, most notably MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
There are a lot of similarities between Staph and Streptococcus Pyogenes also known as Strep including being common members of the normal human microbial and ability to resist many different forms of antibiotics.
This is the same type of bacteria that causes strep throat and could be responsible for several other infections such as tonsillitis, and a few inflammatory diseases that affect the joints heart and brain.
Strep bacteria can be transmitted through direct contact with someone who has impetigo or even picked up indirectly through contact with an item that is contaminated with the bacteria such as clothing and toys.
Regardless of the type of bacteria that has caused your child’s impetigo, it is important to note that even though your child can also get impetigo from allergies or cold, this infection can develop on completely healthy skin as well.
Symptoms of Impetigo
Regardless of the bacteria that have caused your child’s impetigo, the symptoms remain the same. Impetigo first appears as a mild red rash, which turns into tiny blisters and can be caused by any of the two aforementioned bacteria.
These blisters can appear anywhere on the body, but most commonly affect the face and nose area. Even though in most cases they are itchy, these tiny blisters aren’t painful and will eventually break up and ooze fluid.
This is where you need to pay special attention, because this fluid contains any one of the two of the infectious bacteria that can affect other people should they come in contact with it.
These ruptured blisters form a thick, flat, honey colored crust that will disappear, but will leave behind temporary red marks. As a result of these symptoms of Impetigo, your child might experience swollen glands, but generally no fever.
Good news is that in most cases of Impetigo, emergency treatment is not required, but since it is highly contagious and could lead to complications, it is wise to seek medical advice as soon as you notice a weeping, reddish or blistery rash.
Impetigo however is easy to diagnose by a medical professional, who will first carefully examine the affected area, and then ask about any recent scrapes, cuts or insect bites to the affected area.
Further, your doctor will next try to determine whether this rash has appeared over another skin condition such as scabies.
Your doctor may order further tests if:
- The infection keeps recurring
- Your child does not respond to treatment
- The symptoms have spread to many parts of the body
In any of the above instances, your doctor will either gently wipe the affected area with a swab to see which bacteria are causing the impetigo in order to prescribe the best anti-biotic treatment.
Adding to this, they might also refer you to a dermatologist for a swab test to help determine if another infection is also present such as Shingles or Ringworm.
If your child has recurring episodes of Impetigo, your doctor might order a swab test from the nose to see if that is the breeding area for the infective bacteria.
Complications of Impetigo
The symptoms of impetigo generally heal without scarring when proper treatment is administered. However, there are rare cases where complications of impetigo might occur, and these include:
– Kidney Disease
This is perhaps the most serious complication of impetigo, and is also medically referred to as post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis. It generally occurs after a strep infection in less than 1 percent of cases and mainly in children.
Another serious infection that usually affects the tissues underneath the skin, and may spread to your child’s bloodstream and lymph nodes. If left untreated, this complication can become life threatening.
Medical Treatment for Impetigo
Your physician will typically prescribe one of two or both antibiotics to treat impetigo. A topical cream with a prescription strength medication to be put over the impetigo sores.
Oral medication (antibiotics) by a doctor is usually reserved for more serious cases of impetigo, and this may include different types of penicillin.
Hence, it is important to let your doctor know if your child is allergic to penicillin or any other medication in order to get the right treatment.
Side effects of antibiotic cream may include redness, irritation or itchiness in the area where it is applied, and common side effects of antibiotic pills may include vomiting, diarrhea or feeling sick.
How to Prevent Impetigo from Spreading?
Given that it is highly contagious, you must take the necessary precautions to prevent the infection from spreading to others.
First and foremost is to refrain from touching the infected area to not only prevent the infection from spreading, but also reduce the risks of developing unsightly scars that may result from scratching.
Other steps to take to prevent the infection from spreading include washing the affected area with mild soap, washing clothing preferably with baby safe detergent, bed linen and towels everyday and not sharing them with others, and wearing gloves when applying the antibiotic treatment.
Home Remedies for Impetigo
1. Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)
Goldenseal is rich in anti-reflective chemicals such as canadine, canadaline, beta-hydrastine and berberine.
NB: Always seek medical advice first.
Goldenseal can also be ordered in liquid or cream form and should be applied to the affected area of the skin three times per day.
2. Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Tea tree oil is highly effective against the staph bug, and this is proven by studies performed by the Department of Complementary Medicine, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.
Other studies indicate that even ordinary tea offers some level of protection against the infection too.
Tea tree oil is easily available and recommended use is to first dilute four drops in half a teaspoon of pure jojoba oil, mix the oils well and then apply the mixture on the impetigo sores.
If you can’t get your hands on jojoba oil, simply apply 2-3 drops of pure tea tree oil to the affected area.
Myrrh has the necessary properties to lower levels of inflammatory chemicals such as tumor necrosis and interleukin in the blood.
Keeping concentration of these chemicals low is important it helps the body successfully fight off infections.
For the best results, add myrrh with water and using a cotton ball or soft cloth soak and wash off the infected area.
Apart from being a great solution for staph bacteria, myrrh has myriad of other great uses including indigestion, asthma, cough and arthritis.
Believe it or not, this mineral plays a key role in improving poor immunity, which is one of the main causes of impetigo.
Adding to this, research shows that zinc can also significantly lower the risk of impetigo in premature babies.
This is an important revelation as babies have immature immune systems, which makes them more inclined to develop infections such as impetigo. Zinc supplements are easily available, and the recommended does for is 10 mg daily.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
This type of vinegar not only dries up the infection, but also prevents it from spreading. Made from fermented apple juice, apple cider vinegar is rich in anti-microbial properties, and is extremely easy to use.
Start by diluting one part of apple cider vinegar in three parts of water, then soak a cotton swab in a solution and apply it over the affected area.
Garlic provides amazing results for impetigo owing to its key ingredient Allicin, which has been proven in several studies to be highly effective towards strep and staph.
One of the good things about using garlic to heal baby impetigo is that it can be applied as a topical paste made by simply crushing cloves of garlic at home or you can use easily available garlic supplements.
If you’re going to use a homemade garlic impetigo solution, apply the impetigo paste over the affected area, let it sit and then wash off the excess paste after 7-10 minutes.
7. Olive Oil
The excellent antiseptic and therapeutic properties of olive oil allow it to effectively combat and treat impetigo.
Olive oil is rich in polyphenols oleuropein and rutin, which allow it to effectively fight both infectious bacteria strep and staph.
Olive oil is easily available, and a few drops of undiluted extra virgin oil works great when applied on the impetigo sores 4-5 times per day.
8. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains natural acids that have the potential to kill different bacteria strains.
To get great relief, dip a clean cotton ball into extra virgin coconut oil and apply gently on the impetigo sores on the skin. Repeat this process 4-5 times a day for optimum results.
9. Colloidal Silver
Many parents claim that colloidal silver has worked wonders for their child’s impetigo, and since it is a natural antibiotic, it’s definitely worth trying.
Colloidal silver has been used as a medical treatment solution since the early 20th century, and consists of small particles of silver suspended in liquid.
Colloidal silver is easily available in the market and apart from impetigo, it is also used to treat a variety of other conditions including those of the digestive system and even burns.
10. Dietary changes
Your child’s diet can also play a crucial role towards impetigo, and can help build a strong immune system to keep off the bacteria.
Some foods to consider in a good supportive diet include fruits, few animal based proteins and omega-3 fatty acids..
Impetigo is caused by bacteria, and is highly contagious, which is why it is best to seek medical assistance if think your child is affected. The above mentioned information will help you understand the symptoms of impetigo, medical diagnosis and what types of medical treatments are available.
We have also listed some home remedies that might provide relief from the itchy sores caused by this baby skin condition.