What Is Impetigo?
How Is Impetigo Treated? A Look at Antibiotic Options and Proposed Alternative Therapies
Impetigo is a bacterial infection that occurs most often in young children ages 2 to 5. (1) “Kids get it by being around each other, kind of rubbing up against each other,” says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a board-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
Just because it’s most commonly found among children, though, doesn’t mean adults are immune to it. They can still contract it — usually by catching it from their children — but the treatment is the same, says Vikash S. Oza, MD, a pediatric dermatologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
Impetigo is contagious and is passed through direct physical contact. (2) But just because your child touches another child with impetigo doesn’t mean he or she will definitely get it. It depends on how healthy the skin is; if the skin’s perfectly healthy, he or she should be in the clear and able to avoid becoming infected. But if the skin is compromised in some way, whether through a scrape or a bug bite or an eczema flare-up, the risk of developing impetigo increases.
“Skin conditions, such as eczema, dryness, or anything that weakens the skin, can cause kids to be more susceptible to impetigo,” says Lisa Denike Bisgard, MD, chief of pediatrics for Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Southwest Washington. “Weakened skin allows bacteria to more easily enter and cause an infection.”
There are two types of impetigo:
- Nonbullous impetigo, which accounts for 70 percent of cases, is caused by bacteria calledStaphylococcusaureus,which causes staph infection, orStreptococcus pyogenes, which causes strep throat. With this type, impetigo presents itself as a honey-colored, crusty rash on the face and other parts of the body. (1) Oftentimes, nonbullous impetigo will appear around (but not inside) the mouths of children, Dr. Oza says.
- Bullous, the less-common type of impetigo, is caused strictly byStaphylococcus aureus. With this strain, you will likely see blisters in areas where skin rubs together on the body, such as the armpit. (1)
The good news is that both types of impetigo are easily treated. The key is to treat it early. “You have an infection on your skin and if you don’t treat it, it can continue to worsen,” Oza says.
Video: Preventing Impetigo
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