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Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin that is common in children. They are often rashes around the mouth or nose. Staphylococci or streptococcus are the bacteria that cause impetigo. They are very easily transmitted between children within families and at kindergartens.
How does impetigo start?
Impetigo often begins as small rashes or a small wound, eczema or a chickenpox that has become infected. First it’s red and then it becomes blisters. The typical characteristics of impetigo is that the wounds become sticky, crusty and the skin underneath turns red. The wounds or blisters spread quickly if they are not treated correctly. Impetigo often sits on the lip or below the nose, but can sit anywhere on the body.
Children may develop fever from impetigo, and this is a sign that they need to seek medical advice. Penicillin is usually required to treat impetigo if your child has a fever. If your child is well otherwise, seek a medical centre. For infants (under 6 months) or tired and lethargic children with impetigo and fever, seek the pediatric emergency hospital.
Treatment of impetigo
As a general rule, you do not have to seek medical care or give the child penicillin if you treat the impetigo as soon as they appear. The blisters cause a lot of pain. It’s not so nice for the baby, but it’s important to treat it as soon as possible. This is how you treat it:
- Soak the crusts by placing a wet compress on the sores for 10-15 minutes.
- Wash off the crusts. It may bleed a bit underneath, but that’s fine.
- Bathe the wound in plenty of chlorhexidine (bactericidal solution that you can buy at a pharmacy).
- Feel free to add a bactericidal ointment, typically Microcid (available without a prescription at the pharmacy).
- Cover the wound with a dressing to retain the ointment and prevent infection.
It may take a few weeks before the wounds are completely healed. But with this method, they should be smaller within the day. If they get bigger and spread, seek a medical center to get a bactericidal ointment or penicillin. However, local treatment is equally important in all cases. If you find it difficult, ask a nurse at the health center to show you how to do it.
Transmission and impetigo at preschools
Impetigo is highly contagious, and can be partly due to the streptococcal infections that go around in a preschool group. Children with the occasional well-covered blisters can possibly go back to preschool. But if you cannot cover the blisters completely or they are widely scattered – stay at home.
The child should stay at home until the wounds have dried out and healed. Then they are no longer contagious.