Impetigo is an infectious, potentially painful skin infection and though anyone can get it, it particularly affects kids between the ages of two and four. It’s caused by bacteria which thrive in a dirty environment. Kids who already have a skin condition, such as eczema or nappy rash, are more prone than others. It’s a fairly common condition – one in 35 kids under four suffers a bout of impetigo – and though it looks nasty, it’s easily treated and has no lasting effects.
There are two types of impetigo. The commonest is called non-bullous impetigo and causes small, sore, red spots to appear, often round the nose or mouth. Sometimes glands near the infected area also swell up. These red pustules grow larger and then burst, leaking a yellowish liquid until a crusty scab forms over the skin. Bullous impetigo causes larger blisters on the chest or back which last for several days without bursting, but which tend not to hurt. Although infectious, in both cases the sores heal after treatment and don’t leave scars.
The first thing to do with suspected impetigo is seek proper treatment from your doctor. Antibiotic creams can deal with the problem quickly and effectively. Impetigo likes a warm, dirty environment, so it’s important to wash hands after coming into contact with the infected area (or with clothes, towels, soap etc) in order to prevent the condition spreading. Try not to let kids scratch the sores or share sheets with someone who’s infected. Once treatment is underway, impetigo should start to clear up within 48 hours. Apart from infection, poor hygiene is the commonest cause of impetigo, so keeping yourself, your child and any infected areas clean is the best defence.
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