Impetigo, commonly known as school sores, can be a common and frustrating occurrence in the household. Impetigo is very easily spread between people, especially kids, which is why it is common in schools and daycare centres. It is much more common in the hotter months and can be difficult to eliminate.
What causes Impetigo?
Impetigo is caused by bacteria that usually lives on the skin – typically Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus Group A or B. These bacteria can live on healthy skin but at certain times can be responsible for causing infection. When the skin is damaged – such as from a mosquito bite, scratch or eczema, the bacteria can cause infection. However, impetigo can also occur on healthy skin.
Signs and Symptoms of School Sores
- Sores on the body – usually the sores start from a single lesion and then spread rapidly.
- The sores can ooze liquid and become crusted, usually in a yellow scab
- The sores are typically itchy and painful
- Sometimes children can develop a fever from school sores
Is Impetigo contagious?
Impetigo is very contagious! The bacteria are spread directly from the crust or liquid from the sores. The bacteria can also be spread by touching things that have been in contact with the sores, such as clothing or towels.
Treatment of School Sores
Impetigo is a bacterial infection, so antibiotics are often required. Sometimes if there are only a few sores an antibacterial cream can be used. Often, oral antibiotics are needed to kill the bacteria. It is important to see your doctor if you think your child has school sores.
Stopping the spread of Impetigo
Preventing spread of school sores is an important part of the treatment.
- Cover all sores with band aids or clothing. This will prevent the child scratching which will stop the spread on themselves and to others.
- Don’t share a bath or towels with someone who has school sores
- Wash all sheets, clothing and towels in separately in hot water if they have been in contact with the bacteria. Dry them in the sun or in a hot dryer.
- Keep the child isolated from school or daycare until they have had 24hrs of treatment and all sores are able to be covered.
Preventing recurrent school sores
Because school sores are very contagious, some children get schools sores recurrently. It can seem like you have just treated one episode, when they come home with another! There are a few ways to try and reduce the level of bacteria on the skin, which can prevent recurrent infections.
- Have a daily bath or shower with soap and water. Using an antiseptic wash in the shower a few times a week can reduce the bacteria living on the skin. Ask your doctor about which wash to use.
- Hand washing is vital to stop the spread of the bacteria.
- If your child is prone to insect bites or eczema, try to prevent them from scratching. Keep their bites covered and their nails short. Consider using an antihistamine to stop the itch but always ask your doctor if this is appropriate for your child.
- Keep all wounds/cuts covered.
- Wash toys regularly.
- Doctors can prescribe medication that can be used to kill the bacteria living on the skin.
- Sometimes Staphylococcus aureus can live on the skin of animals. Talk to your vet if you are concerned.
Many thanks to Dr Fiona Raciti, FRACGP, MBBS (Hons), BSc (The University of Qld), Diploma of Child Health, Cert Clin Occ Med Monash and Director at Family Doctors Plus, for this article.
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