This highly infectious skin rash develops as a result of a bacterial invasion of the skin. This bacteria (and there are two types) enters your baby’s skin through a cut or a graze which results in an outbreak of small red blisters. It affects babies and children between the ages of two and six years old. Impetigo looks very similar to poison ivy skin rash in regards to the fact that it is contagious and itchy as well as having a comparable appearance. But the difference is that impetigo is not an allergic reaction whereas poison ivy is.

Impetigo is an unpleasant and itchy rash which can lead to complications. So it is important to treat this as soon as possible.

Symptoms of impetigo

To start with there are two types of bacteria which are responsible for impetigo. These are:

  • Streptococci (‘Strep’)
  • Staphylococcus (‘Stap’)

There are other types of bacteria which can cause this condition but these two are the main culprits.

The type of rash your baby develops will depend upon either of these two types of bacteria. Impetigo appears as clusters of small red spots or blisters which can burst and ooze pus. This fluid dries out and forms a yellow-brown crust or scabs which look similar to brown sugar. They will also be very itchy.

These scabs usually develop around the mouth and nose but can spread to other areas of the body such as the arms and legs. The size of these blisters will depend upon whether your baby has the Strep or Stap bacteria.

In some cases your baby may develop swollen lymph glands due to this infection.

Causes of impetigo

The Strep or Stap bacteria naturally occur on our skin and are able to easily access this every time we cut or graze ourselves, or are bitten by an insect. Once these bacteria are inside the skin, they then cause an infection. Your baby may have cut or grazed him/herself which then allows these bacteria to enter the skin and cause an infection such as impetigo. Other possibilities include cold sores and eczema. Another likely cause is if your baby has come into contact with an object, such as a toy which has been handled by another baby with this condition. Even touching another person who has impetigo is enough for that to be transmitted to you. Impetigo is so contagious that prevention rather than cure is the key issue here.

It tends to be more prevalent in the summer months as the warm weather causes the spread of bacteria more rapidly than in the winter.

Treatment of impetigo

Whether your baby has a mild or serious form of impetigo, your first step is to visit your GP. Impetigo can lead to some rather nasty complications such as inflammation of the kidneys if left untreated: so it is important to get onto this right away.

With a mild case your GP will probably advise you just to keep your baby’s skin clean and let the condition takes its course. But it is more than likely that he/she will prescribe a course of antibiotics.

If your GP prescribes antibiotics, then ensure that your baby has the full course of treatment in order to prevent a recurrence. This will probably be an antibiotic cream rather than tablets. Apply this to the infected areas of skin.

Whatever treatment you are given, ensure that your baby’s skin is washed twice daily with warm water and a special antibacterial soap. Dry your baby’s skin with either a paper towel (then bin this afterwards) or a towel.

If you use a towel then ensure that no-one else in your house uses it. Keep it to one side and for use on your baby’s skin only.

This might seem heavy handed but impetigo is such a highly contagious infection that it is better to take these precautions to prevent it from spreading.

It might be a good idea to cover the infected areas of your baby’s skin with a light dressing which will prevent baby from scratching this rash. If your baby shows no sign of improvement after three days, has a fever or the rash has worsened then contact your GP. Do this if your baby has repeated outbreaks of impetigo.

Your GP may investigate this further before recommending a suitable course of treatment.

Complications of impetigo

This can be a rather unpleasant skin rash if not dealt with quickly. Apart from the fact that it is highly contagious, in some cases it can lead to a serious skin infection, scarring or even an inflammation of the kidneys.

Preventing the spread of impetigo

We have already mentioned how contagious impetigo is. If your baby has this condition and isn’t treated then he/she is going to be highly infectious for several weeks.

So, keep your baby away from other children and social situations where he/she may come into contact with other people. Anything your baby wears must be washed on a daily basis and kept separate from items of clothing worn by members of your family. It can help to have a set of clothes, towels and blankets which are purely for use by your baby and are washed separately every day.

Wear a pair of gloves when you apply an antibiotic cream to your baby’s skin and ensure that you wash your hands afterwards. Ask other members of your family to do the same.

You and your family can use kitchen roll or paper towels in the meantime which might make things easier.

Doing all of this will not completely prevent anyone else in your family from contracting impetigo it will certainly go a long way in stopping it from spreading.

Once your baby has started his/her course of antibiotics and the rash is clearing then he/she is no longer contagious. Your GP will be able to advise you about this.

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