Impetigo Prevention and Complications in Infants, Toddlers, Babies and Kids

Impetigo is commonly diagnosed in kids between 2 and 5 years. It is a bacterial infection of the skin that is not deadly but is highly contagious. Patients can easily pass causal bacteria to other people and to healthy body areas.

Small red papules are the common signs of impetigo. This however depends on the type contracted. The signs show up mainly around the mouth and nose. The first signs manifest several days after infection.

Treatment is not always necessary. The infection disappears within 1-2 weeks even without treatment. The problem is that it can lead to complications or be passed around. With treatment, the period required to recover fully is significantly reduced. Medications also prevent spread of causal bacteria.

Impetigo in infants causes, signs and treatments

Impetigo in infants is not that common. The main reason is because infants are rarely in contact with impetigo patients or contaminated surfaces.

Causes:

When impetigo in infants occurs, it is mainly caused by staphylococcus bacteria. These are bacteria that sometimes can be carried around by healthy individuals.

Infants have a yet to mature immune system. Large numbers of bacteria on their skin can easily build colonies and cause infection. This is worse in cases where there are tiny cracks or areas where the skin is not intact.

Signs and symptoms:

Signs first show up around the original entry point. Tiny blisters filled with fluid develop before quickly bursting to release a yellow, clear fluid. It is during this stage that impetigo is most contagious. Both the fluid and exposed parts of broken blisters are rich sources of bacteria.

Impetigo is usually not painful but can cause itchiness. Soreness is mild and soon disappears as honey-colored scabs form on affected areas. Impetigo symptoms may include fever, nausea and general tiredness. These are not common and are mild when present.

A less common type known as bullous impetigo causes larger blisters and is often painful. It occurs mostly on trunk and buttocks. It can for example occur in areas affected by diaper rash.

Impetigo on lips and mouth can be confused with cold sores caused by herpes. See more details on impetigo vs herpes here.

Treatment:

Antibiotic ointments and creams are most commonly used for treatment. They are to be applied directly to affected areas. When applying, care should be taken to avoid spreading infection. Severe cases and advanced stages of impetigo are treated with oral or IV medications.

Impetigo in kids and children

Impetigo in kids is fairly common. This is mostly because children engage in many activities that may involve direct skin to skin contact. For example, impetigo rapidly spreads in schools especially during sports.

Causes and signs:

Different forms of injuries on the skin provide for the portals of entry that bacteria requires to enter the skin. Such portals of entry include cuts, wounds and conditions like eczema. If large numbers of bacteria are picked up, infection can start even on intact skin.

During summer, conditions are warm and humid. This makes it easier for bacteria to build colonies. The incidence rate is therefore higher.

Children are not always keen to observe proper hygiene habits such as not sharing personal items and washing their hands with soap. For this reason, infections can be passed around very easily.

Other factors that may promote impetigo infection include weakened immune system and congested places. These factors do not necessarily cause impetigo. They only promote spread of bacteria from a patient to healthy individuals.

It is not uncommon for secondary papules to develop courtesy of a primary infection. This is mostly seen in nasal impetigo. Since impetigo blisters may cause itchiness, children often end up scratching or picking at their noses. Bacteria are in the process picked from the primary infection and introduced to other healthy body areas. Impetigo on legs or arms can also be caused by a primary infection on the face.

Treatments:

Conventional treatment is done with antibiotics. These are medications used to treat a wide variety of bacterial infections. Certain antibiotics are available over the counter. Patients are not advised to use such medications for impetigo treatment. This is because the medications may not come in strengths enough to control streptococcus and staphylococcus bacteria. Other than that, use of antibiotics without prescription may increase bacterial resistance. Always do your best to first consult a professional even in such a case as impetigo treatment for dogs.

Other than treatment, preventive and care measures help in keeping the infection from spreading. Parents are encouraged to practice such measures to ensure that their kids stay healthy and recover quickly from impetigo.

How to treat impetigo in kids with home remedies

Antibiotics are the best cure for impetigo. Regardless, treatment can be done at home with the following home remedies:

  • Tea tree oil – this essential oil helps reduce swelling and keeps bacteria from building colonies. Before use, the oil should be diluted with carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil. Pure tea tree oil may irritate sensitive baby skin. Diluted tea tree oil is to be applied directly with a cotton swab and washed off after 15 minutes.
  • Heat therapy – heat therapy is more effective in treating boils but can be helpful in the case of impetigo. Bacteria cannot thrive in extreme heat such as caused by heat therapy. The treatment requires a piece of cloth or towel soaked in hot water. Ensure to wring out excess water before pressing the cloth on affected areas for 15 minutes several times a day.
  • Essential oils – essential oils excel in soothing irritated skin but can also keep bacteria from growing. Good examples include coconut oil, peppermint oil and jojoba oil. When using essential oils in babies and children, always dilute with carrier oil to avoid irritation.
  • Honey –honey is mild and effective in reducing pain as well as preventing bacterial infections. Manuka honey is thought to be most beneficial but raw honey can be used for the same purpose. To use honey, apply a thin layer all over affected areas and leave to dry.

Impetigo prevention in children

Impetigo prevention in children can be done in the following ways:

Keep children away from school.

Is impetigo contagious? The infection is most contagious when blisters have broken open. Once diagnosed with the infection, children should be kept from attending school.

Discourage scratching.

It is sometimes very hard to not scratch an itchy part of the body. Scratching provides relief but comes with risk of spread and scarring. One way to discourage it is by dressing affected areas with a loose bandage. You can also try keeping your kid’s nails trimmed short.

Reduce direct skin contact.

Once impetigo blisters have burst open, they are particularly contagious. Direct skin contact can be minimized with waterproof dressing. The dressing should be loose enough to avoid sweating and unnecessary discomfort.

Wash hands regularly.

Caretakers can easily pass bacteria to children and infants. An effective way to avoid this is by regularly washing hands with medicated soap and water especially when a household member has been diagnosed with impetigo or other infection.

Clean or dispose of linen.

As long as infection lasts, always remember to clean or dispose of bed linen, clothes towels and other personal items. This reduces the number of bacteria that may be passed from the patient to healthy individuals.

Disinfect toys and playthings.

Toys and other playthings can easily transmit bacteria. Before they change hands from an impetigo patient, use disinfecting solution to get rid of bacteria that may have accumulated on their surfaces.

Minimize contact.

Babies are very prone to infections. If a household member has been diagnosed with impetigo, ensure to keep them from direct contact with the affected individual.

Pregnant women diagnosed with impetigo herpetiformis should seek medical treatment from their doctors.

Impetigo complications in children and infants

Most impetigo baby and child infections heal completely without complications. This is especially true with medical treatment. Incubation period is about 3 days for strep infections and 5 days for staph infections. Sometimes, the following impetigo complications occur:

Cellulitis:

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection which is more serious than impetigo and potentially dangerous. It occurs much deeper in the skin where bacteria can easily reach blood and lymphatic vessels. First signs include redness, warmth, swelling and tenderness.

Scarring:

Scarring is not a serious complication but it is an unnecessary one. It is more common with ecthyma, a more serious type of impetigo that develops deeper in the skin. Scarring can also be caused by repeated scratching.

Spread of infection:

It is not uncommon for impetigo toddler and child infections to spread to healthy body areas. This is very common with nasal impetigo. In fact, a nasal infection can cause recurrent impetigo which requires occasional use of impetigo treatment cream.

Rheumatic fever:

Rheumatic fever is usually a complication of strep throat but can result from impetigo. This is especially common when the head and neck areas are involved.  It is a serious complication that causes autoimmune inflammation.

Kidney damage:

It is not common for impetigo to cause kidney damage. This is where bacterial toxins cause damage to blood vessels that supply blood to kidneys. The condition causes blood in urine and widespread swelling.

When to see a doctor:

Age is considered an impetigo risk factor. Children between ages of 2 and 5 years are mostly affected. This doesn’t mean that adults can’t develop impetigo.

There are many patients who recover at home without medical treatment. But this always comes with certain risks which are not necessary to take.

See your doctor once you notice signs of impetigo, whether in an adult, child or infant. The doctor may carry out some tests to rule out other conditions such as cellulitis and eczema. Afterwards, they will prescribe antibiotics such as bacitracin for impetigo.

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