What is infantigo?
Infantigo, also known as impetigo is a skin infection caused by bacteria. It is a localized and highly contagious skin infection, most common in infants and young children. It can occur in adults as well but it is more common among children. It is especially more common among those infants and children with a preexisting skin disease such as atopic eczema.
The lesions of infantigo first appear on the skin as erythematous macules that are red, flat, distinct area of skin which is usually less than 1 cm in width. These lesions may later become vesicular or pustular which eventually ruptures leaving a characteristic honey colored crusted lesions due to exudation of fluid from the vesicles or pustules. The lesions of infantigo usually appear on the face, neck and hands.
Infantigo, as said earlier is contagious and can spread to other via sharing of towels, sheets, toys, clothes and items. It could also spread by direct contact. Scratching these lesions can also lead to the spread of the infection to other areas of the body.
What are the causes of infantigo?
Infantigo, as said earlier, is a bacterial infection. The commonest causative bacterial organism of infantigo is Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. These bacteria gain access to the inside of your body when the skin has already been traumatized by other skin diseases such as atopic eczema, insect bites, cuts, burns or poison ivy. However, it is possible for a child with healthy skin to develop infantigo.
What are the risk factors of infantigo?
Some individuals have a higher chance of developing infantigo compared to others. The risk factors of infantigo include:
- Age groups between 2 – 6 years old
- Pre-existing skin condition such as atopic eczema
- Poor hygiene
- Diabetes mellitus
- Immunocompromised individuals
- Taking part in activities with a lot of skin to skin contact
- Living in a crowded environment
What are the signs and symptoms of infantigo?
There are 2 types of infantigo and the signs and symptoms of these 2 types differ a little bit from each other. The 2 types of infantigo are:
- Bullous infantigo or impetigo
- Non-bullous infantigo or impetigo
Bullous infantigo or impetigo
This type of infantigo begins with the formation of fluid-filled blisters known as bullae and thus the name, bullous infantigo. These lesions typically appear on the trunk between the neck and the waist. It also occurs on the arms and legs. The size of the lesions is usually about 1 to 2 cm in width.
These lesions quickly spread in the body and they rupture after several days leaving a characteristic golden yellow honey colored crust. These lesions disappear with time leaving no scars behind.
The blisters can be painful and surrounding area of skin is erythematous and itchy. It is important to prevent the child from touching or scratching these areas as they can easily spread to other areas of the body very fast. Along with these signs and symptoms, the infected infants and children may also develop fever and swollen glands.
Non- bullous infantigo or impetigo
Unlike, bullous infantigo, non-bullous infantigo begins with red sores, typically around the nose and mouth. However, other areas of the face, arms, and legs can also get affected. These red sores also rupture after a few days leaving behind the typical golden yellow honey crust like appearance on the skin with a 2 cm width in size. This appearance is quite similar to the view of cornflakes stuck on the skin.
Within a few weeks, these crusts will dry up and leave an erythematous or a red area on the skin. This reddish discoloration will also disappear within a week without leaving any scars.
These red sores are not painful but they can become very itchy. Just like with bullous infantigo, it is important that you avoid your child from touching and scratching these lesions because they can spread to other parts of the body very easily as well as to other people.
Fever and swelling of the glands in non-bullous infantigo is rare but it could occur especially in very severe cases.
How is a diagnosis of infantigo made?
If you think that you, your child or any of your loved ones have the above mentioned signs and symptoms of infantigo, speak to your health care provider as soon as possible.
Infantigo is not a serious condition but these signs and symptoms may be similar symptoms of other serious diseases such as cellulitis and therefore it is very important that a correct diagnosis is made.
Your health care provider will diagnose infantigo very easily just by inspecting your or your child’s skin. Sometimes to confirm the diagnosis and to identify the causative bacteria, your doctor may take a small sample of the sore or blister lesions and send it for lab testing.
If other signs and symptoms are present in addition to these skin lesions, your doctor may recommend blood and urine tests to be done.
How is infantigo treated?
Infantigo is usually self-limiting but it takes about 2 to 3 weeks to get cured completely without any treatment. That is why treatment is recommended in most cases so that the duration of the illness can be reduced to about 7 to 10 days. The reduction in the risk of spread of infection to the others is another added benefit of initiating treatment.
Since infantigo is a bacterial infection, the treatment is with antibiotics. Different types of antibiotics may be prescribed based on the severity of the infection. These antibiotics may be prescribed in the form of creams or ointments such as Mupirocin for mild cases or as antibiotic tablets such as flucloxacillin for more severe cases of infantigo. Antibiotics are usually given for one week. It is important that you continue to give the antibiotics as prescribed even if the symptoms have improved after the first few days of starting antibiotic treatment.
Infected children should not be sent to school until the lesions become dry. If the child is given all the medication as prescribed, most lesions will disappear within a week.
Along with the prescribed medications, the following general measures should also be followed:
- Carefully wash the lesions with clean water every day.
- If golden yellow crusts develop, soak them in water and carefully remove them. Applying a cream or an ointment over these lesions may also help you remove them easily.
- Wash your hands with soap or sanitizer after touching these lesions.
- Trim the nails of your child to prevent them from scratching.
- Cover the lesions with some bandage loosely. Do not cover them tightly because these lesions need air to heal.
How can you avoid infantigo?
Follow these simple tips to prevent you or your child from catching infantigo.
- If a family member or friend is infected with infantigo, avoid close contact with them until the infection is completely cured. Do not share towels, sheets, clothes or any other items with these infected people until they are completely cured.
- If any item has been touched by an infected person with infantigo, wash it properly with soap and water or by using a disinfectant.
- If your child is infected with infantigo, avoid the child from scratching these lesions as it will only make the condition worse by spreading the infection to other areas of the body.
- Wash yours or your child’s hands properly with soap or a sanitizer to prevent the spread of the bacterial infection to others around you or your child.
- Do not send your child to school until the infection has completely gone to prevent the spread of the infection to others at school.
- Carefully wash the lesions with water and soap and cover them with a loose bandage.
- Trim the nails of your child and keep them clean to prevent them from scratching the lesions and spreading them to other parts of the body.
What are the complications of infantigo?
Infantigo is not a very serious disease and its complications are very rare but they can occur and make the condition much severe. So you have to work accordingly to avoid these complications. Some of the complications that can occur with infantigo include:
- Cellulitis of the skin – This is an infection of the deeper layers of your skin.
- Scarlet fever – This is a rare infection also caused by bacteria, which gives rise to a pink rash throughout the body.
- Guttate Psoriasis – This is a skin condition, not an infection, which can occur following a bacterial infection in children and teenagers.
- Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome –This is also a serious condition of the skin that may give an appearance of scalding of the skin.
- Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis – This is an infection of the small blood vessels of the kidneys following a streptococcal infection.
- Septicemia – This is a very serious infection that occurs when these bacteria manage to reach the blood. Via blood, these bacteria can travel to other regions of the body making your child very sick.
- Scarring – This is in very rare situations when you or your child continue to scratch the lesions im imfantigo.