Itchy Impetigo

Same Germs, Different Disease

What?  Impetigo is a boil?  Well, no, not exactly.  However, it is a skin infection which is caused by a bacterium - the same bacteria responsible for boils, carbuncles, acne and a host of other skin infections.  Impetigo also presents in a somewhat similar fashion to boils, requires very similar care to boils and is transmitted by someone who either has impetigo or boils.

What Is It?

Impetigo is a highly contagious skin ailment most often occurring in children.  Often referred to as a "school yard" disease, impetigo is most frequently found on the hands and face and is characterized by round, crusted, oozing spots which grow in size day by day.    It commonly occurs as a result of bacteria entering the skin through a scratch, cut or insect bite.  It begins as a red, itchy sore that ruptures quickly, oozes for a few days then crusts over.  Because impetigo is so infectious, touching an infected area can be the cause of spreading on the body or to other people.

This type of staphylococcus aureus infection is seldom serious and minor cases often clear on their own within two to three weeks.  Antibiotic treatment may be established by the physician and it will enable a person to return to normal life as soon as the infection is no longer contagious, which occurs usually within 24 hours after treatment begins.

All Impetigo Infections Are Not Equal

There are different types of impetigo with differing symptoms.  Impetigo contaglosa is the most common form of impetigo.  Found predominantly in children, on their faces around the nose and mouth, the small, itchy, red sores erupt quickly, ooze pus and then crust over.  Eventually the crust disappears and the remaining red mark heals without scarring.  Apart from being highly contagious and spotty, there is likely no fever, however swollen lymph nodes may be present.  Because this is so infectious, just touching an infected area can spread it to other parts of the body.

Bullous impetigo is found primarily in infants two-years-old and younger.  Itchy blisters filled with fluid cover the trunk, arms and legs.  As with impetigo contaglosa, the blisters scab with a yellow-colored crust which may take a longer period of time to heal than impetigo contaglosa.

Ecthyma, an infection which goes deeper into the layers of the dermis (skin) presents with painful pus-filled sores which develop into ulcers on the legs and feet.  The crust is harder and thicker, the color more gray-yellow than honey colored as in impetigo.  Swollen glands arise in the affected area and there are usually scars left behind after healing.