What Is Impetigo?
Impetigo, also known in the past as "impetigo contageosum”, is an infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes (strep) or Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria and it occurs in the epidermis (skin’s outer layer). This results in fluid-filled red sores anywhere in the body; however, mostly the face, arms and legs are most commonly affected. The red sores then break open, the fluid oozes out and a yellowish-brown crust develops.
Anyone can be affected by impetigo; however, this mostly occurs among children (2-5 years old). Impetigo occurs more commonly in humid, warm environments. It is extremely contagious and close contact or sharing articles like clothing, towels, sheets, toys, etc. can cause the disease to spread to others. The infection can also spread to other parts of the body by scratching.
Mostly, impetigo starts in small cuts, rashes like eczema, insect bites, etc., in an area where the skin is broken. But sometimes it can also occur in a healthy skin. When impetigo infects the healthy skin, it is known as primary impetigo and when it starts on the broken skin, it is known as secondary impetigo.
What Are The Symptoms Of Impetigo?
There are 2 kinds of impetigo – bullous impetigo and non-bullous impetigo.
- In this case, fluid-filled blisters or bullae appear mostly in the central part of the body i.e. between the neck and the waist or on the arms and legs.
- The blisters usually appear 1-2cms apart.
- The blisters may spread quite rapidly and after many days they burst and form a yellow crust that heals without leaving any scars.
- The areas around the blisters may be very itchy and the blisters may be quite painful.
- Fever and swollen glands are the most common symptoms of bullous impetigo.
- Non-bullous impetigo occurs more commonly and the symptoms of this are:
- Red sores that appear mostly around the mouth and nose. Other areas of the face and the limbs can also be affected.
- The sores burst quickly and leave behind thick crusts that are golden coloured around 2cms apart.
- The crusts dry and leave behind a red mark that usually fades away between a few days and a few weeks, without leaving scars.
- In the case of non-bullous impetigo, the sores can be quite itchy but they are not painful.
- Symptoms like swollen glands and high fever are rare, but if the infection is very severe these symptoms can occur.
What Are The Causes Of Impetigo?
Impetigo occurs due to:
- Infection of the skin with the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
- Primary impetigo: via a cut, injury or insect bite.
- Secondary impetigo: via scabies, eczema or head lice, etc.
- Children with diabetes or weakened immune system due to treatments like chemotherapy or HIV infection, etc.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Impetigo?
- Wash the sores carefully using water and antibacterial soap and keep them covered lightly with clothing of gauze bandage.
- After touching the infected skin, washing your hands thoroughly is recommended.
- Keep nails clean and clipped.
- Wash all the things that come in contact with the impetigo sores with laundry bleach and warm water.
- Wash all the soft and washable toys and wipe all the non-washable toys properly with detergent and warm water. Allow the toys to dry completely.
- To prevent the chances of the impetigo infection coming back, ensure that any scratches, cuts or bites are kept clean and any skin infections like eczema, etc. that causes broken skin must be treated immediately.
- If your child develops impetigo often, then you may have to get your child tested by taking a swab from around the nose to determine if your child is carrying the staphylococcal bacteria. Often these bacteria live in the noses of people without causing much trouble, unless they come in contact with broken skin and cause impetigo.
- Change the clothing, towels and bed linen daily, until the impetigo sores are not contagious.
- Dabbing pure apple cider vinegar on the sores can help to fight the impetigo bacteria and help to relieve the inflammation.
- The lauric acid contained in coconut oil can help to prevent bacteria and pathogens and helps to ward off fungi, bacteria and viruses. Applying coconut oil on the skin can help to create a protective barrier and protects against bacteria and viruses and combining it with tea tree oil can make it more effective.
- Tea solution made from Goldenseal, i.e., H. Canadensis leaf extract can help in the treatment of skin infections and can help to fight the impetigo bacteria and when applied over the sores, can act as a toner and help to remove the crust formed over the blisters. Consuming it internally can help to boost the immune system.
- Tea tree oil extract has been found extremely beneficial as an antibiotic treatment for streptococcus and MRSA.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Impetigo?
- Avoid sharing clothing, towels, sheets or flannels with anyone having impetigo. After use, wash all these items at a very high temperature
- Do not touch the impetigo sores or letting others touch them. Also, do not scratch the sores.
- Avoid preparing food, playing any contact sports, going to the gym or any contact with children or newborns if you suffer from impetigo, till the risk of infection has passed.
What Are The Best Foods For Impetigo?
- A diet that is rich in organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains can help to boost the immune system and help to heal the body and the sores in the case of impetigo faster.
- Focus on fresh vegetables and fruits and their fresh juices such as pineapple, papaya, apple, pear, oranges, grapes as these can be very beneficial if you are suffering from impetigo. In fact, if you are having impetigo, it is recommended that you adopt an all-fruit diet comprising fruits and fresh fruit juices only for 2-3 days before moving back to a normal diet.
- Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, avocados, olives and olive oil, flax seeds, etc. can help to reduce inflammation.
- Including grapefruit extract to your diet can be beneficial in fighting impetigo as grapefruit extract has properties to fight against fungal and candida infections and can also fight MRSA or the staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
- Consuming ginger helps the body to fight bacteria, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system and if you suffer from impetigo, ginger can help to enhance the healing process. Add ginger to your diet by incorporating it into your salad dressings, smoothies or juices.
- Consuming turmeric can help to ease the symptoms of impetigo as the curcumin contained in turmeric has antibacterial properties and also reduces inflammation.
- Incorporating coconut oil into your diet can help to fight inflammation and boosts the immune system and is very helpful if you are suffering from impetigo. Add coconut oil to your smoothies, popcorn, toast or granola.
- Manuka honey has proven antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties and including it in your diet if you have impetigo can speed the healing.
- Green tea can help to boost the immune system and has several healing properties when you are suffering from impetigo.
What Are The Worst Foods For Impetigo?
- Eat less of animal-based proteins and foods as they worsen the condition of impetigo.
- Remove hydrogenated fats and trans fats, polyunsaturated oils, vegetable shortening and margarine from your diet and use extra virgin olive oil instead when you are suffering from impetigo.
- Avoid refined sugar and sugary food and beverages like cakes, pastries, candies, jellies, sodas, energy drinks, etc. as these worsen the condition of impetigo.
- Avoid processed, packaged and refined foods like hot dogs, sausages, white bread, white pasta, etc. as they hamper the process of healing.
What Are The Medicines For Impetigo?
What Are The Tips To Manage Impetigo?
- Soaking the impetigo sores 3-4 times a day can help to provide relief and also help in faster healing.
- Cleaning and removing the crusts caused by non-bullous impetigo exposes the bacteria and helps in quicker healing.
- Using a 15-minute bleach bath regularly can help to fight the bacterial by making use of a very diluted household bleach solution (containing 2.2% bleach) and soaking the sores.