What is impetigo?
Impetigo, aka “school sores”, is a highly contagious superficial skin infection caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.
It is typically an infection seen in toddlers and children and spreads in places such as day care centres, play groups and schools. It is much less common in adults but they can be affected, particularly if they have poor immunity themselves.
Impetigo often appears around a child’s nose and mouth but it can also be found on other areas of the body. There are two types, bullous and non-bullous.
Kids will most likely have the non-bullous kind, particularly in the ages between 2 and 5. The sores start off as red and itchy that quickly rupture and ooze clear fluid or pus for a few days. This is when they are contagious!! Once the sores have scabbed over, they tend to form a yellow crust, they are no longer contagious and will clear up and heal. There may be just one or many. They can even sit right up against each other and coalesce.
Bullous impetigo are intact blisters with clear or cloudy fluid inside that last 2-3 days. Children under 2 years old make up 90% of cases.
There are a number of factors that can make your child more prone to catching impetigo- cuts, scratches, insect bites, eczema, chicken pox sores, burns or surgery in the area. Many of these have to do with an already compromised skin surface that is irritated or cracked making it a lot easier for the bacteria responsible for impetigo to cause the problem.
What can I do if I think my child has impetigo?
Hygiene is of utmost importance during a bout of school sores. As hard as it may be, your child needs to stay home and be firmly encouraged to not touch them. They will spread very easily!!!
Your general practitioner can help you decipher if it is impetigo or not. Depending on the severity of the infection, the western medical approach to impetigo can include topical and/or oral antibiotics.
Topical antibiotics, however, are increasingly being recognised as ineffective due to the rise in antibiotic resistance (this means the bacteria have outsmarted the drugs and the drugs no longer can wipe them out!!). Antibiotic resistance is a really big problem as this means for those emergency cases or surgeries that rely on antibiotics for patient survival are left with very little to no security.
Your general practitioner will take you through your options and together you can decide upon the best approach for your child.
Since controlling the spread is a top priority,
- Keep your child at home until the sores have dried up.
- Wash the sores in salty water 2-3 times a day (1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 1 cup of hot water and left to cool enough before using). Use a cotton ball so that it can be thrown in the bin straight after using.
- Keep your child from touching the sores. This can be tough. You can try covering them up with a waterproof dressing or band-aid.
- Wash hands regularly with hot soapy water.
- Avoid sharing anything your child uses including cups, cutlery, dishes, hand towels, towels, bedding.
- Wash all bedding and towels daily.
- Avoid having your other children share the bath water.
What are some natural approaches?
Most cases of impetigo are self-resolving within a week to 10 days. In the meantime, we can really support our child’s immune system with some nourishing foods including onions, leek, garlic, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, fish, unsalted, raw nuts and seeds, fermented foods, mangoes, kiwi, oranges and apples.
Focus meals on a wide range of vegetables, protein and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, eggs, olive oil), two serves of fruit per day and limit processed foods (white flour products, sugar and food additives).
Stay hydrated aiming for 1- 1.4L of filtered water per day (depending on your child’s age). This can include some yummy herbal teas such as Rosehip; a great herb that has anti-bacterial action.
Garlic is at the top of the list because of its natural antimicrobial superpowers. Garlic is fantastic minced raw into guacamole or hummus. Use as much as your child can tolerate.
If you are concerned that your child may need some extra immune support in getting through their bout of impetigo or you are facing yet another round, book in today so that we can help put an action plan together for you. Looking for more information on boosting your child’s immune system and increasing their resilience? Read this article on 10 ways to boost your child’s immune system.