Impetigo In Children: What Are Its Symptoms And How To Deal With It

Impetigo In Children

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Kenny was in his room, instead of being at school on sports day. He was visibly upset that he had unsightly sores near his lips, because of which his mom won’t send him to school. He was also not allowed to scratch or touch the sores for they might spread and then he would have to stay home longer.

Kenny had impetigo, a common bacterial infection of the skin. Also highly contagious, impetigo is prevalent among children aged between two and five (1). MomJunction tells you about the causes, symptoms, home care tips, preventive measures, and treatment options for impetigo in children.

What Is Impetigo?

Impetigo is a contagious bacterial skin infection that is prevalent around the world. The infection attacks the superficial epidermis or the topmost layer of the skin on the mouth, nose, hands and legs. It can sometimes spread to the skin under the nails or between skin folds (2). The infection is contagious and spreads when someone comes in contact with open sores, or liquid or pus that oozes from the blisters.

The skin turns itchy and painful, causing extreme discomfort to the child. However, they should avoid scratching and touching the affected areas. Children with impetigo should be at home and not mingle with other kids at school or daycare.

If the infection is only on one part of the body, take proper care to prevent it from spreading. As impetigo is a contagious disease, some children are at a higher risk than others.

Who is at a higher risk of getting impetigo?

While everyone has a chance of getting impetigo, some people are more vulnerable to the bacteria than the others.

  • Children aged less than six years as their immune system is not fully developed
  • Those attending school or daycare
  • Children living in tropical or humid climates
  • Those who share towels, beds, blankets, or pillows

Impetigo can affect both boys and girls alike. However, knowing what causes the infection is the first step to managing it better.

[ Read: Skin Rashes In Children ]

What Are The Causes Of Impetigo?

Impetigo is caused by the Staphylococcus (staph) and Streptococcus (strep) bacteria, which attack by entering through any cuts, insect bites, and bruises on the skin. When the bacteria transmit from one person to another via touch or close contact, it could infect healthy skin too.

When the infection is caused by both the staph and the strep bacteria, it is called nonbullous impetigo. This is the most common type of impetigo in children and accounts for around 70% of the cases (3).

Another type of impetigo is bullous impetigo that is caused only by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Impetigo of this kind is common in children aged less than two years.

Impetigo can also be classified as primary and secondary. Primary impetigo is when the bacteria enter an otherwise healthy skin through a cut or wound. When impetigo is the result of an underlying skin condition such as eczema, it is called secondary impetigo. Let’s see how you can recognize impetigo from any other skin infection.

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Symptoms Of Impetigo In Children

The skin condition is characterized by the presence of big blisters on the skin. Signs and symptoms of impetigo in kids include (4):

  • Large red blisters filled with a fluid, in case of nonbullous impetigo. The infection starts off as small blisters and grows, only to burst and leave patches of red skin that may seep fluid. The red patches eventually turn tan or honey colored spots, which may look like cornflakes stuck to the skin.
  • Clear fluid-filled blisters occur on the central part of the body if it is bullous impetigo. They are usually 1-2cm wide in size. These stay longer on the skin and may spread quickly before bursting. They also leave yellow crusts that fade away without scarring.
  • Painful and itchy sores around the blisters
  • High temperature, although rare
  • Swollen glands, also rare

Impetigo is a condition that does not go away on its own. It needs medical attention and must be treated by a qualified doctor.

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[ Read: Dry Skin In Children ]

Diagnosing Impetigo: What Happens At The Doctor’s?

Doctors can diagnose impetigo just by looking at the infected areas of the skin. The doctor will look into the child’s medical history to know for any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the problem. Also, they will check for any recent cuts, bruises, and wounds on the skin that could have paved the way for the bacteria into the body.

To confirm if the child has impetigo and not any other skin condition such as scabies, the doctor may recommend a swab test. Swab tests check the severity of the infection and determine which antibiotics work best. This test also checks for infections such as ringworm and shingles.

Only after proper diagnosis will the doctor be able to recommend the right course of treatment for the child.

How To Treat impetigo In Children?

The treatment aims at hastening the healing process through a skin care regime and use of antibiotics in some cases. Treatment measures also include:

  • Maintaining a hygienic skin care routine. This includes keeping the skin clean, which helps mild infections heal faster.
  • Washing blisters with a skin-friendly soap, under running tap water.
  • Mild yellow patches can be washed using clean water.
  • Topical antibiotic ointments such as retapamulin and mupirocin may be prescribed in some cases (6). For most people, mupirocin alone helps in treating the infection (7).
  • Oral antibiotics such as amoxicillin, cloxacillin, and cephalosporins are also prescribed for treating severe cases of impetigo. Antibiotics work only when the entire course, as prescribed by the physician, is followed (8).

The best course of treatment would be a combination of medications or topical ointments combined with skin care at home.

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Tips To Prevent And Control Spreading Of Impetigo

[ Read: Cellulitis In Children ]

No person can be 100% immune to impetigo. Anyone who is exposed to the bacteria may have a chance of developing it. However, the chances of a child developing impetigo infection can be reduced with these precautionary measures.

  • Do not scratch or pinch the blisters to prevent the fluid from spreading the bacteria.
  • Keep away from people who have impetigo.
  • Do not share towels, beds, water bottles, plates, tumblers, soaps, and toys with kids who have impetigo.
  • Do not send the child to daycare or school when he or she has impetigo.
  • If you have touched the infected area, wash your hands immediately.
  • Always wash anything, such as towels, hankies, clothes, etc., that has touched the infected part.
  • Bathe the child regularly.
  • Always wear disposable gloves when cleaning the sores and applying topical ointments to the infected areas.
  • Keep the soap clean.
  • Cut the nails short and keep them clean.
  • If the child has a wound, insect bite, or cut on the skin, keep it covered and clean and do not let the child scratch it, as that increases the chances of bacteria entering the body.

Maintaining proper hygiene is very important to prevent spreading the infection. Remember that a child infected with this infection will be contagious until the sores are healed or at least 24 hours after the treatment has started and the medications have started working (9).

You can also make use of some home remedies for impetigo, along with the medical treatment.

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Home Remedies For Impetigo In Kids

Impetigo cannot be entirely treated with home remedies. But the symptoms can be controlled, and the healing can be hastened.

  • White vinegar can be used to make an antibiotic wash for keeping the sores clean. Combine a tablespoon of vinegar with two cups of lukewarm water and use a clean, cotton ball to clean the sores with it.
  • Soak a clean cloth in hot water and place it on the infected area to kill the bacteria.
  • Tea tree oil has properties that can prevent the bacterial infection from spreading. Mix one tablespoon of olive oil with a few drops of tea tree oil and apply the mixture to the infected area.
  • Grapefruit seed extract (10) acts as a non-toxic disinfectant and can be used to clean the affected areas on the skin. The extract should be diluted with water before it is applied on the blisters.
  • Aloe vera gel has a cooling effect on the infected skin. It minimizes the itching and inflammation and also has antibacterial properties that speed up the healing process. Just apply a bit of pure aloe vera gel on the skin and leave it to be absorbed.
  • Garlic is a natural antibiotic that can kill the infection-causing bacteria. Including garlic in your child’s diet can help bring down the infection soon.

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[ Read: Folliculitis In Children ]

In addition to these, you can also try manuka honey, herb goldenseal, and zinc extracts to heal impetigo faster. The fastest way to get rid of the infection is to follow the doctor’s orders, maintain skin hygiene, and give a healthy diet to boost the child’s immune system. While you do all this, be considerate about the child’s feelings. After all, it is not comfortable or nice to have blisters and patches on your skin.

Do you have an experience to share? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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Sagari Gongala

Sagari is a math graduate and studied counseling psychology in postgraduate college, which she uses to understand people better. This skill also helps her write better articles about kids and their behavior. She is meticulous in her research and gives you information that could be the ultimate help you’ll need in times of need. An animal lover, vegan, and coffee addict, Sagari puts her mind and soul into whatever she does. During her free time, you'll find her either rescuing a sick/injured animal with a friend, or glued to her couch watching Sons Of Anarchy on Netflix.
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