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Summertime scrapes open door for impetigo

Erin Dobie, DNP, CNP

Summer fun activities for kids usually involve a few scrapes and bruises. Any opening in the skin is an inviting spot for germs and bacteria.

Impetigo is a superficial bacterial skin infection of a sore, scratch or insect bite on the skin that spreads easily into multiple sores. The lesions open and become crusty and have a “honey color” appearance. It occurs when common bacteria, found normally on the skin, enter an open area on the skin’s surface.

The most common bacteria found on the skin are group A hemolytic streptococcus and staphylococcus aureus. The lesions start as a small red lesion then open up, drain and crust over with a honey-colored scab. The lesions spread easily with contact, so multiple lesions are common.

Wound care of even minor scrapes or wounds is important in preventing impetigo. Washing the cut or scrape with warm, soapy water multiple times per day and application of an over-the-counter antibacterial ointment (Bacitracin, neomycin, generic triple antibiotic ointment) is recommended. If impetigo occurs, often topical treatment is all that is needed if treatment is started early and there are only a few lesions. For a child with multiple lesions, oral antibiotics may be prescribed in addition to topical antibiotics.

What can you do at home?

  • Everyone in the household should use proper hand-washing technique to help decrease the chance of spreading the infection.
  • Keep your child’s fingernails short to help decrease the chance of scratching and spreading the infection.
  • Avoid sharing garments, towels, etc., to prevent the spread of the infection.
  • Soak the affected area in warm water or use wet compresses to help remove the overlying scabs. Apply antibacterial ointment three times per day after washing.

Further medical care is needed if:

  • Sores continue to spread despite antibiotic ointment used as directed above.
  • Swelling and redness extending out significantly beyond the sores is present.
  • The child has a fever greater than 100.4 degrees.

Erin Dobie is a certified nurse practitioner at Children’s Minnesota.

Erin Dobie, CNP
Erin Dobie, CNP