impetigo: a streptococcal or staphylococcal infection that erodes the skin and dries to form a yellow-crusted sore.

Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

Recently, my daughter was diagnosed with an impetigo infection in one of her eyes. Since I had never heard anything about this illness, I did a bit of research on the subject. This is what I came up with!

Impetigo is a contagious skin infection that is common in young children. It is caused by bacteria, and is of the Staphylococcus or ‘A’ beta-hemolytic streptococci, also called GABHS. It frequently attacks the hands and face, appearing in pre-existing cuts and abrasions.

Impetigo may take on more than one form. Some physicians theorize that differences are due to the staphylococcal strain involved and the relative activity of the exotoxin. These forms include:

  • Impetigo contagiosa, which has lesions of 2-4mm that quickly change into a vesicle or pustule. The vesicle will burst early on, leaving the honey colored crust that is common of this rash. The rash will spread through entrance of other open sores, or from being scratched.
  • Bullous impetigo shows up with large fragile blisters on the torso and limbs. Often, only the scars and crusts of the ruptured blisters are seen when it is contagious. The separation of the skin is due to an exotoxin produced by staphylococci.
  • Common impetigo is when the infection occurs in preexisting wounds, and has no apparent source of infection.
  • Folliculitis, which is considered to be impetigo of the hair follicles caused by staphylococcus aureus.
  • Ecthyma is a deeper, ulcerated impetigo infection, often occurring with lymphadenitis.

In general, impetigo presents itself as a large cluster of small open sores with a honey colored crust that oozes from the sores. It is frequently itchy, and like chicken pox, it is hard to avoid scratching.

While the bacteria that causes this can be obtained from someone else with boils or skin eruptions, impetigo usually shows up spontaneously, without any apparent source of infection.

The treatment for impetigo is simplistic. Oral antibiotics are the most frequently prescribed, but if the case is mild enough, antibiotic ointments can clear up the infection. The important part is making sure that the patient takes all of the medication, even after the rash has disappeared, so as to prevent reinfection.

If ointment is used, you should wet a cloth with warm water and white vinegar, soak and remove the crusts from the sores with the cloth before applying the cream. When the crust no longer appears, you can stop the soaking, and just apply the medicine.

Since impetigo is contagious when it is oozing and crusted, you should make sure that you take the proper precautions against infecting other people. These precautions include:

  • The patient should be kept home from school or work until the lesions no longer crust over.
  • The patient should avoid all close contact with others.
  • All bed linens and bath towels that the patient uses should be changed after the first day of treatment, and every day after, until the lesions no longer crust over.
  • All clothing that comes in contact with the patient should be thoroughly washed in hot water, if possible.
  • Anyone who comes into contact with the patient should wash their hands frequently, using a new hand towel or paper towel to dry themselves each time.

Impetigo is usually no longer contagious after two days of treatment, and if it is not completely healed within one week, the patient should return to see their physician.

Approximately 9-10% of all children presenting to clinics with skin complaints have impetigo. It occurs equally in males and females, and is most common in children under 2 years of age.

On occasion, GABS will infect more than the skin of a person with impetigo, and cause other problems. Patients may easily develop scarlet fever or post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, which would appear about 10 days after the infection develops, and may result in temporary kidney failure. Scarlet fever can be recognized by high fever, chills, sore throat, vomiting, headache, and a pale red rash, covering most of the patient's body. Both of these things have a high rate of complete recovery, and little or no permanent damage is usually caused.

The following web sites were used in my research for this node:


Im`pe*ti"go (?), n. [L., fr. impetere to attack.] Med.

A cutaneous, pustular eruption, not attended with fever; usually, a kind of eczema with pustulation.


© Webster 1913.

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