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The Informed Parent

Skin Rush, Impetigo

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Sep. 01, 1998

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection, especially common in children during the warm, humid summer months. It appears as a rash which refuses to clear, even with the application of common skin lotions. The face, neck, arms and legs are usually involved, although impetigo can develop anywhere on the body.

Usually a small skin sore is the starting point of impetigo, such as a cut, scratch, bite or rash. The bacteria can then enter and spread to the surrounding skin. Bacteria do not enter through intact skin.

Impetigo is not a serious condition, but it should be treated in order to prevent the spread to other children and the rare possibility of a kidney inflammation following in it's wake. It is contagious until the rash clears, or until at least two days of antibiotics have been given and signs of improvement are evident. During this time, your child should avoid close contact with other children and no one should touch the rash. Also, keep the child's clothes, washcloths, and towels separate from the rest of the family.

Oral antibiotic therapy prescribed by your doctor will usually give quick improvement. A newer topical antibiotic can be prescribed by your physician and has good results. Topical medicines purchased over the counter are significantly less effective.

Follow your physician's advice and complete the course of antibiotics. If you don't see improvement within three to five days, see your physician again. There are other skin conditions which look similar to impetigo, but these require other types of treatment.


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