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Treating And Preventing Impetigo

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

If your child comes home from school with red sores around their nose and mouth, they may have an infection called impetigo. A study in PLOS ONE concluded that 162 million children suffer from this infection at any one time across the globe. The Mayo Clinic describes it as a common and highly contagious skin infection, more commonly found in infants and young children than adults. However, there are cases when adults contract it as well. Luckily, this type of infection is preventable and treatable.

If you're a parent looking for more information on impetigo, brief yourself on its appearance and risk factors, as well as these prevention and treatment tips.

Identifying Impetigo

The Mayo Clinic states that this infection is recognizable by the red sores that appear around the mouth and nose in an infected individual. These sores can rupture and ooze a liquid that dries into a yellowish-brown crust on the sore. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD) explains that, unlike other types of mouth rashes, impetigo is caused by two bacteria: Streptococcus and Staphylococcus.

The Mayo Clinic notes that other symptoms of this condition include sores on the hands and feet, mild itching and soreness.

Treatment Options

It may be distressing if you notice sores on your child, but these sores are treatable. The Mayo Clinic notes that medical professionals treat the condition with topical antibiotic ointment and, in some cases, antibiotics taken by mouth. Before applying the cream or ointment, you may need to soak the affected area in warm water to remove the scabs.

There are also steps you can take at home to help treat the sores, such as using an over-the-counter ointment or placing a bandage over the sores. As the AOCD notes, in some cases, the infection may resolve on its own. However, if not treated, it could spread. Effective treatment helps to minimize the risk of further complications, which may affect the joints, lungs, bones or kidneys.

If you suspect that your child has impetigo, take them to your primary care physician for a diagnosis.

Risk Factors

There are several things that could put your child at higher risk for contracting this skin infection. The Mayo Clinic notes that children between the ages of 2 and 5 are most at risk. The infection can easily spread in crowded places, such as daycare and schools, which is why you may also hear it referred to as school sores.

Like many bacterial infections, impetigo prefers warm, humid weather, so it may be more common in the summer months or warm and humid environments. Sports that involve skin contact, such as wrestling, can also increase exposure and risk. And, if a child has an insect bite, rash, cut or other skin injury, the bacteria have a better chance of infecting the child.

While the condition most often affects children, adults with diabetes or otherwise compromised immune systems are also at higher risk of contracting this infection.

Preventing School Sores

There are several ways parents can help their children limit their risk of contracting school sores, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. First, make sure that they take a bath or shower after playing sports. Second, wash their hands with soap and use a clean towel to dry them, as the bacteria can spread from person to person through contaminated towels or clothing. It's also important to refrain from sharing personal items, such as clothing or sports equipment.

With this knowledge on how school sores spread, you can help your child stay healthy and happy.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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