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Red and spotty: kids with school sores

Updated on July 26, 2013

Scool sores: blistered, red skin - it's yuck mum

When my daughter had a small, red sore on her chin I didn't take much notice. Two days later her entire chin was covered in red, rashy, itchy blisters. Yuck!

The doctor told me the red blisters were school sores, otherwise known as Impetigo.

Impetigo is a bacterial infection. As its common name, "School Sores" implies, this nasty skin infection is most usual amongst young, school age children.

What causes school sores (Impetigo)?

Some people seem naturally more resistant to impetigo. People who have a low immunity, possibly due to illness, or poor hygiene habits are more likely to develop School Sores.

Typically, young children have a lower immunity, so they are more susceptible to the bacteria. Their immunity can be further lowered if they are already exposed to an ilness such as a cold. Therefore, being in a crowded school environment, where children are more prone to become sick, can magnify their vulnerability to the infection.

The bacteria which causes Impetigo can be found on soft and hard surfaces, and even in environments such as a sandpit. Generally, if a child has a cut on the skin, the bacteria can enter the body and then cause the rash.

The Impetigo skin infection can spread very quickly, from just one sore, to other areas of the body. In infants it can appear in the groin or bottom area, which is usually covered by a nappy. Otherwise it is commonly found on the face, particularly around the chin and nose areas, or on the arms. It normally starts as tiny red blister-like sores. Later the red sores form a scabby crust.

How to avoid School Sores (Impetigo)

The best way to avoid Impetigo is to practise good hygeine. Encourage children to wash their hands after going to the toilet, and to wash face, hair and hands regularly. Good nutrition can also help to develop a stronger immune system.

How to treat Impetigo

Fortunately Impetigo is not usually painful. However, it can be itchy and also embarrassing. A practical thing to do is to cut children's fingernails. This minimises the damage they can do by scratching at the sores, and also helps limit the amount of bacteria that can be caught under the fingernails.

The rash will require a trip to the doctor. For mild cases the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic cream as a topical treatment. For more extreme cases an oral antibiotic will be prescribed. Fortunately, the antibiotic treatments can work very quickly to start healing the skin.

It is important to mimise the chances of cross infection with others. Children should be kept away from child care or school for at least 24 hours after commencing oral antibiotics. The rash is no longer considered infectious when it dries out.

Try to avoid covering up the rash with tape. You want to encourage the rash to dry out in order to accelerate the healing process. Washing the area with an antibacterial soap, at least twice to three times a day, (traumatised child allowing!) will also assist the healing process. Unfortunately, you may have to cover the rash, preferably with a hypoallergenic, breatheable tape, if the child is returning to child care or school, to avoid cross infection.

Follow good hygeine practises to prevent cross infection. Wash with an anti-bacterial soap, and ensure you clean hands before preparing food. Wash towels and bed linen. Ensure that the infected person only uses their towel, clothes etc. Wash clothes and towels in a hot wash, and use a drier on a hot setting. Alternatively an anti-bacterial product can be added to the washing machine cycle.

Of course, if your child's condition worsens, or is not healing, then follow up with your health practitioner.

Good luck with the treatment.


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    • Emma Beth profile image

      Emma Beth 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I've had a few people say to me that treatments are much better now thanks to antibiotics and before that it could be really problematic.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 5 years ago from Tucson, Az

      never heared impetigo called school sores/I had it when I was in first grade...little boys peeing in the sandbox at church :( and back then...yes way back then...the treatment was a scalding bath several time a day...terrible memories of that was all ovr both legs...I take showers now mostly ha