Impetigo: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Risk, Treatments and More

Impetigo
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

What Is Impetigo?

Impetigo is an acute, highly contagious bacterial infection which usually appears as red sores on the face, especially around the nose and mouth. It usually affects preschool and school-age children.

Signs and Symptoms of Impetigo

Impetigo symptoms can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, particularly when they are present on the face.

Symptoms Of Impetigo

Though the symptoms vary slightly from type to type of impetigo, they are similar and can include:

  • Blisters filled with pus that are easy to pop.
  • Blisters that itch:
  • Filled with yellow or honey-colored fluid.
  • Oozing for a few day than form a yellowish-brown crust.
  • A rash that may begin as a single spot, but spreads to other areas with scratching.
  • Skin sores on the face, lips, arms, or legs, that spread to other areas
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Causes and Risk Factors of Impetigo

Impetigo is caused by streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph) bacteria. Impetigo occurs when these certain types of bacteria infect the skin. This can occur in a few different ways, such as:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with an individual who has impetigo.
  • Touching things an individual with impetigo has had contact with, such as towels, bedding, and toys.
  • Bacteria are infecting the outer layers of skin. The bacteria can infect the skin in two main ways:
  • Through a break in the otherwise healthy skin.
  • Through skin damaged by another underlying skin condition.

In addition to the above-mentioned situations, there are other factors that can increase* your chances of developing impetigo such as:

  • Being a child – Impetigo is thought to be more common in children because their immune system has not yet fully developed and because they tend to spend time in places where the infection can easily be spread.
  • Having diabetes.
  • Warm and humid weather – impetigo tends to be more common during the summer months.
  • Having a weakened immune system.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Participating in activities that involve skin-to-skin contact.

Types of Impetigo

There are several different types of impetigo. The symptoms and causes are what set each type apart from the others.

  • Impetigo Contagiosa: This most common form of impetigo, most often begins as a red sore near the nose or mouth which soon breaks, leaking pus or fluid, and forms a honey-colored scab, followed by a red mark which heals without leaving a scar. Scores are not painful, but may be itchy. Lymph nodes in the affected area may be swollen, but fever is rare. Touching or scratching the sores may easily spread the infection to other parts of the body.
  • Bullous impetigo: Bullous impetigo, involves painless, fluid-filled blisters, mostly on the arms, legs and trunk, surrounded by red and itchy skin. The blisters may be large or small. After they break, they form yellow scabs.
  • Ecthyma: In this form of impetigo, painful fluid-filled or pus-filled sores with redness of the skin, usually on the arms and legs, become ulcers that penetrate deeper into the dermis. After they break open, they form hard, thick, gray-yellow scabs, which sometimes leave scars. Ecthyma may be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes in the affected area.

Tests and Diagnosis of Impetigo

Impetigo appears as honey-colored scabs formed from dried serum, and is often found in the arms, legs, or face. Your doctor will examine your sores and ask about any recent injuries to the skin and he/she may take a culture to determine what type of bacteria is causing you impetigo.

Treatments and Medications of Impetigo

Treatment for impetigo depends on the severity of the symptoms as well as the type of bacteria causing the impetigo. When it just affects a small area of the skin, impetigo is usually treated with antibiotic ointment. But if the infection has spread to other areas of the body, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic pill or liquid. During treatment, it’s important to take precautions to minimize the risk of impetigo spreading to other people or other areas of the body, such as by:

  • Not touching the sores whenever possible.
  • Washing your hands regularly.
  • Washing the areas of infected skin with clean gauze and antiseptic soap every day.
  • Soaking the areas of crusted skin with soapy water to help remove* the layers of crust.
  • Staying away from work, school, nursery or playgroup until the sores have dried up or treatment has been continuing for at least 48 hours.

Precaution and Self-care For Impetigo

Good hygiene can help you prevent impetigo. These methods include:

  • Washing hands regularly.
  • Bathing or showering regularly.
  • Cleaning and covering any injuries to the skin.
Self-care For Impetigo

If you have impetigo, there are several things you should do to prevent it from spreading to other areas of the body, as well as to other individuals. These include:

  • Using antibacterial soap to wash hands.
  • Using a clean towel or fresh paper towel to dry the body or hands.
  • Washing linens and clothes in hot water.
  • Cleaning surface areas in the home with antibacterial products.
  • Keeping fingernails short.
  • Avoiding schools and childcare centers while the infection is contagious.
  • Not sharing personal hygiene items.

Conclusion

Impetigo is very contagious. It can spread to anyone who comes into contact with infected skin or other items. That’s why you should always be careful what and who you touch, keep you hygiene at a high level, and cover your skin injuries at all time to prevent catching a dangerous bacteria such as impetigo.

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Author

Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.