Infantigo: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatments

Infantigo, also known as Impetigo, is a common skin infection affecting young children, though some adults could also suffer from it. It is caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria and typically occurs after a cold, a viral or bacterial infection, insect bites or eczema. Infantigo is a contagious skin disease that spreads in school aged children, earning it the name ‘school sores’. It is characterized by a reddish, brown oozing rash, typically around the mouth and nose which quickly spreads to other healthy areas of the body as well as to other individuals who come in close contact with the sufferer.

Let us study the causes, symptoms and treatment options for Infantigo.

Causes of Impetigo

As stated above, Impetigo is caused by the staphylococci or the streptococci germs which are found in the nose and skin around the mouth. Here are some of its causes:

  • Infants and children having weaker immune systems are likely victims of Infantigo. School (or daycare) aged kids between 2-6 years are most susceptible as the microbes spread more easily in these environments.
  • Impetigo often occurs as a secondary condition following bouts of head lice infestation, atopic eczema or scabies. These conditions are traumatic to the natural barrier of the skin which becomes susceptible to the bacterial attack.
  • One of the main causes of Impetigo is malnutrition; it is commonly seen in children coming from poor socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Unhygienic and crowded areas facilitate the spread of this disease.
  • Humid climate also allows the staphylococci bacteria to thrive.
  • People with sensitive skin are more likely to develop infantigo rashes.
  • Intravenous drug users are even more prone to such infections.
  • People with diabetes mellitus may also fall victim to this disease.
  • Patients with weakened immunity from HIV or chemotherapy could develop impetigo rash.

Symptoms of Infantigo

Following are the symptoms of infantigo:

  • Red, round oozing rash. Sometimes, there may be blisters with pus.
  • Once the blisters break, there is flat honey-colored crusting.
  • Impetigo rashes are usually present on the face, diaper region and arms. In lactating mothers, the rash could develop around the nipple region.
  • The rash is not painful but it is extremely itchy. Scratching it with dirty nails could give rise to serious infections which need strong antibiotics or steroidal treatment.
  • As the bacteria multiply, the sores increase in size often becoming bulbous.

Impetigo is highly contagious and could spread to healthy parts of the skin, especially if the person touches them with dirty hands, or due to the bacterial spores present on the patient’s clothing. A swab or skin culture can confirm Infantigo.

How to treat Impetigo?

When left untreated, impetigo could turn serious, deadly even. It can cause complications like nephritis or glomeronephritis which affects the kidneys. It is particularly serious in babies as it spreads rapidly to healthy parts of the skin.

Here are some conventional treatment options for Impetigo:

Keep the infected child from attending school/daycare

The first step to curb infantigo is to keep the child at home until treatment has commenced or until the doctor declares her/him fit to go to school.

Remove the crusts

To remove crusts that develop on the skin, dip a clean cloth in half a cup of vinegar added to a cup of warm water. Use the cloth as a compress on the rash. Remove the compress after 10 minutes. Repeat treatment several times daily. Do not try to lance large or bulbous rashes at home.

Oral and topical medicines

Impetigo is curable and, though not a serious disease, it can have many serious implications. To cure serious cases of impetigo quickly, the child may need prescription antibiotics (penicillin). It is important to administer the complete dose of the medicine as advised by the doctor. Do not stop the drug just because the child feels better or because the rashes seem to heal. Failure to complete the dose could bring back the infection. Also apply topical medicines if given. Topical preparations for Impetigo include ointments like chlorhexidine, povidone-iodine or betadine. Before applying them, gently wash the crusts or sponge them away with vinegar as explained above. Apply the ointment all over the rash and in the surrounding clear regions of the skin. Wash hands thoroughly after application.

Keep the skin clean

Bathe the child daily. Teach children the importance of good hygiene. Use an antibacterial soap and warm water to clean the skin. Do not forget to shampoo the patient’s hair as the germ spores could be present there. Keep a separate soap for the infected family member.

Wash hands frequently

This is an essential remedy to prevent Infantigo from spreading. Teach children to wash their hands from time to time and especially before eating. The child must be taught not to touch or pick the sores. Provide a hand sanitizer in case there is no soap or water available readily. To prevent the child from scratching, cover the sores up with bandages.

Natural remedies for infantigo

We will now discuss some alternative treatment options for Infantigo

Treatment with Apple cider vinegar

Organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of the best home remedies to heal infantigo sores naturally. Mix ¼ cup of organic, raw ACV with 1 cup of water. Use the mixture as a wash for the skin sores. This remedy will burn and sting if the lesions are oozing, but it will help balance the ph of the skin and reduce inflammation. ACV can also kill streptococcus germs to cure Impetigo quickly.

Impetigo treatment using mulberries

Mulberries are both astringent and antiseptic. You can use them for healing lesions of ringworm as well as infantigo. Mash the berries and apply them as a poultice on the skin. Repeat application every few hours to heal the skin quickly.

Rosemary and thyme

Essential oils of rosemary and thyme can cure impetigo lesions naturally. You will need to dilute the oils before application; so add a few drops to carrier oils like coconut oil or jojoba oil. You can even use fresh or dried thyme and rosemary for natural infantigo treatment. Add ¼ cup rosemary leaves and ¼ cup thyme to boiling water and steep the mixture for a few minutes.  Strain and cool the liquid. Use the astringent solution all over the rash with a clean, sterile cotton-ball. Do not forget to discard the cotton after use.

Diet for Infantigo sufferers

According to Ayurveda, the ancient healing science in India, a well balanced diet is very important to treat Impetigo.

  • The patient may be placed on an all-fruit diet for 1 to 3 days. Feed the child plenty of fresh fruit juices and fruits like papaya, pineapple, grapes, pears and apples. These are packed with antioxidants which can heal the body from inside.
  • In older children with Impetigo, drinking orange juice for an entire day along with fruits can remove the germs from the body.
  • After the detox, patients can start consuming nuts, seeds, milk, and whole grains. Avoid feeding them red meat which increases inflammation.
  • One must stay away from tea, coffee, sugary foods and beverages, refined flour etc. and as far as possible also limit food that comes out of a package.
  • Turnips are a powerful remedy for infantigo. Soak turnip pieces in vinegar for 6-8 hours. The child may eat these in the morning to strengthen the immune system.
  • Enema can help cure constipation and remove constitutional anomalies that cause impetigo.
  • Give the child plenty of drinking water to throw out toxins from the body.
  • Garlic is nature’s antiseptic and a super healing remedy that can kill all kinds of germs in the body. Give the patient several garlic cloves daily. You can also crush 2-3 cloves of garlic and apply its juice on the sores and lesions to heal them rapidly.
  • Sun bathe Sunlight is a natural disinfectant. These days most of us are scared of exposing our skin to the sun owing to the fear of skin cancer. However, soaking in the early morning sunshine is a beneficial remedy for treating and preventing impetigo. Sun bathe in the early morning hours for at least 15 minutes to kill bacteria, get Vitamin D and prevent all kinds of skin issues.

Tips to prevent Impetigo

Avoid sharing personal items

Keep the patient’s towel separate and also wash it separately. Do not allow the child to share other personal items like bedding, combs, face towels, napkins etc.

Wash clothes frequently

Change clothes immediately after returning home. Wash the patient’s clothes on the highest setting of washer-dryer. Use hot water and bleach or a mild detergent. Wash all bedding and linen used by the patient. You can also easily disinfect un-washable items by hot ironing them.

Trim fingernails

This is very important to prevent secondary skin infections that could result from scratching the skin.

Treat cuts, stings and wounds quickly

One of the common reasons for spread of staphylococcus germs is through open skin wounds. Treat cuts, nicks, bites and scratches immediately. Apply an antibiotic lotion or cream after washing the skin. If needed, cover up the cuts with a bandage.

Avoid contact with newborn babies

Babies are highly susceptible to Infantigo due to underdeveloped immune system. Limit contact with infected babies and avoid sending them to child care center if there are other kids with Infantigo there.

Avoid handling food

This is an important preventive measure to curb the spread of Infantigo. Adults suffering from Impetigo mustn’t cook food until cleared by their doctor.

Impetigo is not a serious disease but it can cause discomfort in the form of itching and can also spread to other people around. In rare cases, the infection may enter the bloodstream causing serious kidney infection. We hope the above remedies help you manage and prevent infantigo.