Impetigo is a common contagious skin problem, especially for children and infants. The infection spreads easily and, in some rare cases, can lead to secondary infection and other complications, so it’s very important to be able to recognize impetigo and respond to it before it gets serious. Because one of the leading causes of infection spread is poor hygiene, it’s extremely important to wash your hands regularly and treat even minor abrasions with triple antibiotic ointment. If you have children or work around children (such as in a school or daycare), then these extra precautions are a must, especially if any children present with the classic symptoms of impetigo.
Symptoms of impetigo. The most common symptoms of impetigo are either pus-filled blisters or a red rash that may or may not show pus. More advanced types of impetigo may appear as skin lesions, especially around the mouth, nose and limbs. There may be swollen lymph nodes in the area of infection. Pustules are not difficult to break with gentle scratching, and skin where the spots have broken will be red and will most likely develop a yellowish crust. This is how the infection spreads, so do your best not to scratch it. Symptoms may vary according to the degree of infection, as well as the type of impetigo. Bullous impetigo, impetigo contagiosa and ecthyma are different types of impetigo that infect different skin layers and have some variation in the type of sores.
Impetigo treatment. Though impetigo is considered a relatively minor infection, it should still be treated to prevent spread or complications. The Mayo Clinic explains, “Because impetigo can sometimes lead to complications, [the affected person’s] doctor may choose to treat impetigo with an antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics.” Treatment will usually involve a combination of antibiotics and frequent washing with mild antibacterial soap. This is especially important for individuals that are at high risk of complications from infection, including very young infants, immune-suppressed individuals, diabetics and other such people who may not be able to adequately fight off infection.