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Impetigo

Impetigo is a contagious skin infection caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes, resulting in the development of red sores, blisters, and honey-coloured crusts on the skin's surface. It often occurs in areas of the body prone to skin-to-skin contact, such as around the nose, mouth, hands, or extremities. While diagnosis by a healthcare professional is necessary, common symptoms indicating impetigo include the presence of fluid-filled blisters that rupture and form crusts, along with redness and inflammation of the affected skin. Treatment typically involves topical or oral antibiotics to eradicate the bacterial infection, along with proper wound care and hygiene practices to prevent the spread of infection to others. In addition to medical treatment, keeping the affected area clean and dry, avoiding scratching or picking at the sores, and practising good hygiene can help promote healing and prevent the recurrence of impetigo.

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Advice for Impetigo

What is impetigo?

Impetigo is a contagious bacterial skin infection characterized by the formation of red sores, blisters, and honey-colored crusts, typically occurring around the nose, mouth, hands, or other areas of the body.

What Are the Symptoms of Impetigo?

Impetigo is a contagious bacterial skin infection characterized by several distinctive symptoms. Impetigo starts with red sores or blisters, but the redness may be harder to see in brown and black skin.

The sores or blisters quickly burst and leave crusty, golden-brown patches.

The patches can:

  • Look a bit like cornflakes stuck to your skin
  • Get bigger
  • Spread to other parts of your body
  • Be itchy
  • Sometimes be painful

Other symptoms can include

  1. Swollen Lymph Nodes: In some cases, impetigo may cause nearby lymph nodes to become swollen and tender to the touch. This is a sign that the body's immune system is responding to the infection.
  2. Fever: In rare cases, particularly when impetigo leads to complications such as cellulitis, fever and general malaise may occur.

It's important to note that the symptoms of impetigo can vary depending on the type of impetigo (bullous or non-bullous) and the severity of the infection. Additionally, individuals with impetigo should avoid scratching or picking at the sores, as this can worsen the condition and increase the risk of spreading the infection to other areas of the body or to other people.

How is Impetigo Diagnosed?

Impetigo is typically diagnosed based on its characteristic appearance and clinical symptoms. Healthcare providers, such as doctors or dermatologists, can usually diagnose impetigo through a physical examination of the skin lesions. The key features they look for include:

  1. Presence of Blisters or Sores: Impetigo often presents as clusters of small, fluid-filled blisters or sores that rupture and form honey-coloured crusts or scabs. These lesions may be surrounded by redness and inflammation.
  2. Location of the Lesions: Impetigo lesions commonly occur on areas of the body that are prone to skin-to-skin contact or minor trauma, such as the face (around the nose and mouth), hands, arms, or legs.
  3. Distribution of the Rash: Impetigo lesions may spread rapidly and occur in multiple areas of the body. The rash may be localized to a specific region or more widespread, depending on the severity of the infection.

In some cases, healthcare providers may perform additional tests to confirm the diagnosis or identify the specific bacteria causing the infection. These tests may include:

  • Bacterial Culture: A swab or scraping of the affected skin may be collected and sent to a laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing. This test can help identify the bacteria responsible for the impetigo and determine which antibiotics are most effective for treatment.
  • Skin Biopsy: In rare or atypical cases of impetigo, a small sample of skin tissue may be taken for biopsy to rule out other skin conditions with similar symptoms.

If you suspect you have impetigo, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management. Our friendly medical team will be happy to assist and can advise on taking photos to aid the diagnosis.

What Are the Treatments for Impetigo?

The treatment for impetigo typically involves topical or oral antibiotics to eradicate the bacterial infection. Here are the main treatments for impetigo:

If the condition is mild topical hydrogen peroxide cream or antibiotic creams or ointments, such as mupirocin (Bactroban) or fusidic acid, are often prescribed for mild cases of impetigo. These medications are applied directly to the affected skin lesions several times a day for around 7 to 10 days.

For more severe infections oral antibiotics will be required. Commonly prescribed oral antibiotics for impetigo include flucloxacillin or for people unable to take this clarithromycin. Oral antibiotics are typically taken for about 5- 7 days,

It's important to take antibiotics exactly as prescribed and to complete the full course of treatment, even if symptoms improve before the medication is finished. Failure to complete the treatment regimen can lead to incomplete eradication of the infection and may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

As with any medication, antibiotics may cause side effects in some individuals, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and allergic reactions. It's essential to discuss any concerns or potential side effects with a healthcare professional before starting treatment with antibiotics for impetigo.

How Can I Prevent Impetigo?

Preventing impetigo involves practising good hygiene and taking steps to avoid skin-to-skin contact with infected individuals. Here are some tips to help prevent impetigo:

  1. Keep Skin Clean: Regularly wash your hands and body with soap and water, especially after activities that involve skin contact with others or contaminated surfaces.
  2. Avoid Sharing Personal Items: Refrain from sharing towels, clothing, razors, and other personal items, as these can spread bacteria that cause impetigo.
  3. Cover Wounds and Cuts: Keep any cuts, scrapes, or insect bites clean and cover with a clean bandage until they heal to prevent bacteria from entering and causing infection.
  4. Promote Good Hygiene in Children: Teach children the importance of handwashing and personal hygiene. Encourage them to avoid touching or scratching skin lesions and to cover any cuts or scrapes with a bandage.
  5. Keep Living Spaces Clean: Regularly clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces in your home, such as doorknobs, countertops, and bathroom fixtures.
  6. Practice Good Skin Care: Maintain healthy skin by regularly bathing, moisturizing dry areas, and avoiding excessive scratching or picking at the skin.
  7. Avoid Contact with Infected Individuals: If someone in your household or close contact has impetigo, take precautions to avoid direct skin-to-skin contact until the infection has cleared.
  8. Seek Prompt Treatment: If you notice symptoms of impetigo, such as red sores or blisters on the skin, seek medical attention promptly. Early treatment can help prevent the spread of infection to others and reduce the risk of complications.

By following these preventive measures, you can reduce the likelihood of developing impetigo and minimize the risk of spreading the infection to others.

Alternative Treatments for Impetigo

Impetigo is a contagious bacterial skin infection that is normally best treated with antibiotics. However, given the risks of overuse of antibiotics if this is a mild version of the condition there is a topical hydrogen peroxide cream that can relieve your symptoms without the need for antibiotics

Hydrogen peroxide acts as an antiseptic agent, effectively killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi on the skin's surface. When applied to wounds or cuts, hydrogen peroxide cream foams upon contact with blood or other organic material, helping to remove debris and cleanse the area. This bubbling action can aid in the removal of dead tissue and promote a clean healing environment. Additionally, hydrogen peroxide cream may help prevent infection and facilitate the healing process.

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