Impetigo: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

March 22, 2018

Typically affecting children, impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection that causes red sores on the face. While it's usually not serious, the infection does require antibiotic medication to reduce the risk of transmission and prevent complications. Here's what you should know about this common childhood ailment.
What Causes it?
Impetigo occurs when staphylococcus or streptococcus enter the body through skin that is already injured or irritated. Most often, children contract the bacterial infection when they come into contact with another infected person. Skin problems, such as insect bites, cuts, burns, poison ivy or eczema, can leave a person more susceptible to this type of bacterial infection. Impetigo also tends to be more common among athletes who participate in contact sports, such as wrestling and football.
What Are the Symptoms?
Usually, impetigo causes red sores that quickly break open and ooze for a few days before forming a honey-colored crust. Most of the time, the sores will appear around the mouth and nose; however, they can spread to other areas of the body via towels, clothing and fingers.
Sometimes, infants and young children will develop bullous impetigo, which causes larger blisters around the trunk. Rarely, people can develop a more serious infection called ecthyma, which works its way deeper into the skin, causing pus-filled sores that can develop into ulcers.
Getting Treatment
Impetigo is usually treated with topical antibiotic cream or ointment. In certain instances, a doctor may also decide to prescribe oral antibiotics.
If you believe your child might have contracted impetigo, it's important to see a doctor, or visit a PhysicianOne Urgent Care location to reduce the risk of transmission and avoid complications. Rarely, impetigo can lead to cellulitis, which occurs when the infection spreads to the underlying skin. Without treatment, cellulitis can spread to the bloodstream and lymph nodes, causing life-threatening complications. In rare instances, people can also develop scarring and kidney problems in response to severe impetigo infections.

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