by Mark Moore, MD
My 2-year-old son has a sore on his face that has not healed.
The warmth of summer fades and we dust off our toddlers. school clothes in preparation for their return to the classroom. As the seasons change, so do the ailments that afflict our children. In spring and summer, we see insect bites -- mosquitoes, gnats, spiders and chiggers -- all of which can become secondarily infected. Poison ivy and other similar dermatitis' can be bothersome to child and parent. For children in daycare and during the school year, continuous contact with their classmates spreads germs that cause another common malady: Impetigo.
Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection, which manifests as small red pimples that become non-healing open sores. They may scab over with yellow or brown crusts. It's caused by a staphylococcal skin infection but if lesions are found around the nose or mouth, it may be streptococcal. Bacteria cause the initial infection, which enters small cuts or breaks in the skin. This is a very contagious disease and it can spread easily to classmates and family members if proper precautions are not taken.
The majority of cases will need oral antibiotics (erythromycin is usual) although some minor lesions may heal with over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointment. Wash these areas before applying antibiotic ointment three times daily. A Band-Aid can be applied over raw lesions.
Contagion applies to ones self and to others. Frequent hand washing and reminders to your child not to scratch or pick at lesions will reduce its spread to other areas of the body. Bathtubs, sinks and washtowels can also be a source of spread among family members.
Should someone with impetigo attend school? It is prudent to keep them home for one to two days after antibiotics are begun. Within in a week of treatment, most lesions will resolve. Try to encourage children to avoid picking at scabs or these lesions can take months to completely clear and could even become permanent scars.
Mark Moore, MD is an experienced Anesthesiologist, sub-specializating in women's and children's anesthesia. He holds board certifications in both Anesthesiology and Pain Management. Dr. Moore and his wife, Lisa, a pediatric nurse, are the authors of Baby Girl or Baby Boy. They live in Tallahassee, Florida.
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