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Beware Impetigo, AKA “School Disease”

Impetigo (pic via Wikipedia)

by Dr. Asma Khan

Impetigo is a common bacterial skin infection that mostly affects children, though anyone can get it through contact with someone who is infected. The name stems from impetere–Latin for “to attack”–as it is one of the most contagious skin infections that exists today. While impetigo usually isn’t too serious, it can lead to complications if left untreated.

Let’s go through everything you need to know about impetigo, including its causes, symptoms, and how to treat it.

Causes of Impetigo

Impetigo is a bacterial infection on the outer layers of the skin, usually affecting the face, arms, and legs. While people of all ages can get impetigo, it is particularly common in children, accounting for roughly 10% of skin problems seen by pediatricians in the United States. It has even been called the “school disease,” as it can easily spread from child to child in a classroom or daycare center. The infection usually begins with a minor cut, insect bite, rash (such as eczema), or any place there is broken skin. The impetigo bacteria that enter into the broken skin thrive in hot, moist conditions, making this infection more common as the weather gets warmer.

Common Symptoms

The first sign of impetigo is usually reddish spots on the skin, often clustered around the nose and lips. These spots will grow into sores, blister, and eventually ooze and form a honey-colored crust. The sores are usually itchy and sometimes painful, and oftentimes they expand to cover more areas of skin.

Infants often have a less common type of impetigo, with large blisters that form around the diaper area or in skin folds. These fluid-filled blisters soon burst, leaving a scaly rim called a “collarette.”

Prevention Tips

Good hygiene, for children and adults, is the number-one way to prevent impetigo. A few tips include:

  • Regular bathing and hand-washing
  • Covering any skin wounds or insect bites
  • Keeping nails clipped and clean
  • Not touching or scratching open sores

If you or a loved one does have an impetigo infection, remember to:

  • Wash everything that comes into contact with an impetigo sore in hot water and laundry bleach
  • Change bed linens, towels, and clothing every day
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces, equipment, and toys
  • Refrain from sharing any personal items

What You Need to Know

If you suspect that you or your child may have impetigo, immediately visit HRHCare Urgent Care or see your doctor. You may be prescribed an antibiotic treatment that can heal and stop the infection from spreading. Once you begin treatment, impetigo is usually gone within seven to ten days.

It’s likely your doctor will be able to diagnose impetigo just by its appearance, but he or she may want to culture the bacteria if your case is more severe.

As the weather gets warmer, take all the right steps to prevent impetigo for you and your child. And when in doubt, come see us as HRHCare Urgent Care!

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Asma Khan, MD, is the Clinical Director at HRHCare Urgent Care, 84 N Highland Ave between High Street and Sickles Ave in Nyack. Along with offices in Haverstraw and Spring Valley, the facility is part of the 28 health center HRHCare network in the Hudson Valley and Long Island providing comprehensive primary care.

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