Dermatology
Impetigo
Overview:
  • Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection. It is caused by streptococcus and staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
  • The infection often begins in minor cuts, insect bites, or a rash such as eczema. 
  • The first signs of impetigo are red sores on the skin.
  • Anyone can get impetigo, but it is more common in children and athletes.

What is impetigo?
It is a severe skin infection that is usually not dangerous. The condition usually improves within 7 to 10 days of treatment. It is also very common among children and athletes.

Types of impetigo:
Impetigo infections can be divided into two main types, depending on the way the infection starts: 
  • Primary impetigo: In this type, the impetigo bacteria penetrate into healthy, intact skin.
  • Secondary impetigo: It occurs in broken skin. The bacteria penetrate the skin through cuts caused by conditions like eczema. 

Cause:
Impetigo is a common and contagious skin infection caused by bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes. They infect the outer layers of skin through minor cuts, insect bites, or a rash such as eczema. A person with impetigo can infect a healthy person if the latter touches their sores or uses their personal tools (e.g. towels, clothes, or bed linens).

Risk factors:
  • Living in a warm, humid climate;
  • ​Having a skin condition (e.g. eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis);
  • Having a sunburn or other burns;
  • Having insect bites;
  • Playing contact sports (e.g. football or wrestling);
  • Having diabetes and a weakened immunity.

Symptoms:
  • The first signs of impetigo are reddish sores on the skin, often clustered around the nose and lips. These sores quickly grow into blisters, ooze and burst, and then form a yellowish crust. The clusters of blisters may expand to cover more of the skin. Sometimes the red spots just develop a yellowish crust without any blisters being seen.
  • The sores can be itchy and occasionally painful.
  • Swollen lymph nodes or fever.

Diagnosis:
A doctor can usually diagnose an impetigo infection by its appearance. If the sores are not cleared with treatment, the doctor may want to take a sample of the bacteria. This is done by taking a sample of the fluid that comes out of the sore then testing it to see what type of bacteria is causing the infection. Based on the results, certain antibiotics are prescribed. 

Treatment:
  • Antibiotics are effective against impetigo. Which type of antibiotic you get depends on how widespread or severe the blisters are.
  • If you have impetigo in only a small area of your skin, topical antibiotics are the preferred treatment. Options include ointment. 
  • If your impetigo is severe or widespread, your doctor can prescribe oral antibiotics.

Prevention:
Good hygiene is the key to prevention of impetigo. 

Guidelines for people with impetigo:
  • Bathe and wash your hands often to cut down on skin bacteria.
  • Wash the sores with soap and water as recommended by your doctor, and cover them with gauze.
  • Keep your nails clipped and clean. Scratching can spread the infection to other parts of your body. It will also cause more cuts, leading to the condition to worsen.
  • Cover any cuts or insect bites to protect the area. 
  • Don’t touch or scratch open sores to avoid spreading the infection.
  • Wash everything that comes into contact with the impetigo sores in hot water.
  • Change bed linens, towels, and clothing that come in contact with the sores often, until the sores are no longer contagious.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces, equipment, and toys that may have come in contact with impetigo.
  • Don’t share any personal items with someone who has impetigo.
  • Keep infected children at home if the affected area cannot be covered well.
  • Adults with jobs that require close contact should ask their doctor when it is safe to return to work.

To avoid reinfection:
  • If you have a wound, scratch, or an insect bite, immediately wash it with soap and water, then apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with bandage.
  • Shower after every exercise. Use soap and a clean towel.
  • Do not share personal items (e.g. Sports equipment and towels).

FAQ:
Is impetigo contagious?
Yes, as it can be transmitted from a person to another through direct contact or touching a surface that was previously touched by a person with impetigo. 

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Last Update : 09 November 2020 08:17 AM
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