WHAT IS IMPETIGO?
Impetigo is a skin infection that can spread from one person to another. Impetigo causes one or more "sores" on the skin that are often covered by a thick dry honey-colored crust. The sores won't hurt, but may be sore if touched. Any skin area can be affected, but sores are usually on your arms or legs, the face (mainly around the mouth, nose, or ears), and sometimes on the scalp. Anyone can get impetigo, but it most often seen in children 2 to 5 years old. The disease is most common during summer and fall, but can occur anytime.
WHAT CAUSES IMPETIGO?
Impetigo is usually caused by a group of bacteria ("germs") called group A streptococci ("strep"), or by other bacteria called staphylococci ("staph"). These bacteria's are found on the skin and in the nose. When small cuts, scratches, or insect bites occur, these bacteria can get under the skin surface and cause infection. Infected areas are often reddish and puffy. Pus-filled blisters occur, but can be so small that they are not noticed. When the blisters break, the fluid dries to form the honey-colored crusts. As the bacteria multiply, the sores increase in number and size. (Do not confuse impetigo crusts with normal "scabs", which are dark/reddish brown and "shrink" as the wound heals).
HOW IS IMPETIGO SPREAD?
The bacteria that cause impetigo are found on normal skin and in your nose. Large numbers of these bacteria are in the impetigo crusts and pus. The bacteria are easily passed to new areas of the skin or to other people by unwashed hands, dirty fingernails, and clothing or other objects that have touched the sores. To help prevent spread of impetigo to other parts of the body or to other people:
* stay really clean.
Children who may have impetigo should not attend school/day-care. They should not sleep, play, or have close contact, with other children until after they have been seen by a doctor.
* keep fingernails clean and short so that scratching will not spread bacteria.
* wash clothing, sheets, towels, and other items that come in contact with impetigo sores or crusts with hot water and soap.
* keep sores covered with clean bandages
HOW CAN IMPETIGO BE TREATED?
See a doctor if small breaks in the skin do not heal quickly or if the sores get bigger and honey-colored crusts appear. The doctor can decide if the skin problem is impetigo and what type of treatment is needed. Antibiotics are used to treat impetigo infections. Antibiotic cremes or ointments are used to kill bacteria that cause impetigo on the surface of the skin and in the crusts. The crusts must be removed before using the ointment. The best way to remove the crusts is to soak them in warm, soapy water until they soften and can be wiped away. After the crusts have been removed, gentle scrubbing of the sore will help wash away more bacteria. After washing, dry the area and apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment. Repeat this process three or four times a day until several days after new crusts have stopped forming.
WHAT HAPPENS IF IMPETIGO IS NOT TREATED?
If impetigo is not treated promptly, it can spread to other areas of the body or to other people. Severe or untreated impetigo can cause kidney damage.
HOW CAN IMPETIGO BE PREVENTED?
* Bathe daily with soap and water.
* Wash face, hands, and hair regularly. If you are caring for someone with impetigo, be sure to wash you hands after each contact.
* Keep fingernails short and clean.
* Change and wash clothing frequently.
* Do not let your children play, or have other close contact, with someone who may have impetigo (look for the sores with honey-colored crusts).
* If you or your child get a cut, scratch, or insect bite, wash the wound with soap and water. If it is more than a very small break in the skin, apply a small amount of an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage.
REMEMBER: See a doctor if a cut, scratch, or insect bite fails to heal properly and gets larger or develops a honey-colored crust. It may be impetigo.
How long does it take to develop impetigo following exposure?
Impetigo may develop up to 10 days after the skin becomes infected with GABS.
Other Excellent References
* Disease Prevention News. Simple Soap and Water-Still the Best Means of Infection Control>. March 30, 1998 pp1-2. (PDF file format*) http://www.tdh.state.tx.us
Created By: Jacob C and Brandon H
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