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What is Impetigo?

Updated on April 25, 2011

This is an acute infectious inflammation of the skin in which there is the formation of flat sores which become "mattery" or pustular. It is met with in all ages and in all social grades, but it is commonest among children who live in ill-favored surroundings and especially among those who are not often bathed carefully.

The germs live in the creases of the skin and tend to multiply rapidly when left undisturbed. Then when there is a slight opening on the skin made by scratching, the germs enter and produce the characteristic sores. For this reason impetigo is often found where a child has head or body lice, because the skin is injured from scratching due to the irritation caused by the lice, and this is also the reason why the rash is so often found on the face, behind the ears and round the mouth and in the hair. A child scratches an infected spot and by further scratching elsewhere starts fresh crops of sores, and in a short time there may be sores all over its head and body.

Towels used by this child are infected and will spread the disease to others who use them, and fresh children are also infected by rolling faces together and so forth in the rough-and-tumble of play. For this reason children suffering from impetigo are excluded from school until they have had treatment.

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Treatment of Impetigo

A child who is washed all over every day, whose hair and body are free from lice, who has clean hands and short nails, and who has no scratches or cause for scratching on its skin, is unlikely to develop impetigo even when living among those who have it.

Where a child has developed im­petigo, first attend to the general cleanli­ness and then tackle the sore place. Gently soak off the top crust with warm water, or warm olive oil. Underneath is a raw base which can be left exposed for a minute or two to dry. Then cover the raw spot with a thin layer of ammoniated mercury 2.5 per cent ointment and allow that to soak in. Remove the fresh crust as it forms and repeat with the ointment and the spot should be well in two or three days.

Another good treatment is to remove the crust and then cover with a piece of elastoplast strapping and keep the place covered until it heals. This has the advantage of preventing fresh infection from escape of "matter" and is clean for bedtime and school.

Exposure to Ultra-Violet rays helps to kill the infection and hastens healing. Very good results have been obtained by the use of penicillin either locally as a cream or by injection.

For a proper prognosis and course of treatment, consult your family doctor.

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