Impetigo- types, symptoms & treatment

Article

13. 10. 2021 Dermatovenerology

Impetigo is a bacterial infection affecting the surface layers of the skin. It is the most common bacterial skin infection in children, but adults can get it too. Impetigo is highly contagious especially in large groups of children. The disease manifests by a blistering, scaly rash and is often treated with antibiotics. What forms of impetigo exist, what are their symptoms and what treatment is available? Keep reading to find out.

What is impetigo and what are the forms?

Impetigo is an acute and highly contagious bacterial skin infection, most often caused by either Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus or a combination of both. Due to the defences of the human body- a usually impenetrable protective skin layer, these bacteria rarely have a chance to get into our bodies. However, if the skin barrier is disturbed (e.g. by injury, abrasion, insect stings, but also skin conditions such as eczema ...), they can pass the skin barrier and cause an infection. Another form is the so-called impetiginisation (e.g., impetiginisation of eczema foci), when the primary problem (eczema) is complicated by a secondary bacterial infection, and this must be taken into account in the treatment.

The incubation period of impetigo is usually 1-2 weeks. The transmission of the infection can be either through direct contact or indirectly (for example by sharing towels, or soaps).

Impetigo and treatment

The main goal of treatment is to stop the spread of infection, alleviate the symptoms and promote skin healing. Impetigo is usually treated with antibiotics, so it is advisable to see a doctor - home remedies and over-the-counter treatment may not be enough. Due to the high infectivity of the disease, it is necessary to prevent further transmission by isolating the patient in home care.

Antibiotics can be administered topically in the form of ointment or cream, or in the form of a total - tablets, syrup.

  • Topical treatment of impetigo - for local antibiotics to penetrate the affected areas more easily, the scabs must first be removed very carefully. This is possible by soaking or applying a damp cover, preferably with a mild disinfectant (e.g. potassium permanganate solution) and then rubbing in the antibiotic ointment twice a day.
  • General treatment for impetigo - antibiotics can be given in tablet form, or to young children as a syrup. If the disease (in children and adults) is accompanied by, for example, fever or itching, it is advisable to administer accompanying symptom-control medications – paracetamol for pain and fever and antihistamines for itching. 

The following hygiene measures should be followed when treating impetigo:

  • disinfect wounds carefully,
  • wash the skin with antibacterial soap every day,
  • it is advisable to use protective gloves when applying cream onto the affected areas,
  • change the patient's bed linen, pyjamas and towels to prevent the infection from spreading through clothing or other textiles,
  • linens and personal items should be washed at high temperatures, or add antibacterial solution and then iron
  • do not use common towels and wash your hands often,
  • trim the child's nails so that they do not scratch which could lead to spreading the infection further through the body. 

Complications of impetigo

Impetigo is in most cases a not very painful disease without serious complications, but in exceptional cases the following may occur:

  • - Glomerulonephritis - an inflammatory kidney disease that occurs when infected with certain species of Streptococcus pyogenes. It occurs mainly in children aged 2-12 years and is more pronounced 3-6 weeks after the first manifestations of impetigo.
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome - is caused by the action of a toxin (like bullous impetigo), which spreads from the original infection through the bloodstream to other areas. It mainly affects children under 5 years of age. It first manifests itself as red deposits on the surface of the skin (often large) and can have fatal consequences. It is usually accompanied by more general symptoms such as fever, discomfort, and skin sensitivity. 

Do not hesitate to seek medical attention

"Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin disease that mainly affects children but also adults. The disease has 2 basic forms - bullous and non-bullous. In most cases, it’s not a particularly painful disease and doesn’t tend to lead to serious complications, but in exceptional cases it can take on life-threatening complications (see above). The usually treatment is with the use of antibiotics, so it is advisable to seek medical expertise," explains Dr. Helena Michalíková, chief physician of dermatovenerology at Canadian Medical. 

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