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Winter air can be brutal on skin especially the face and hands. Kids are particularly vulnerable since they don’t tend to remember to slather on lotion or use chap stick repeatedly throughout their days. Recently, my youngest son who struggles with sensitive skin that is prone to dryness developed a terrible infection that at first looked like acne but turned out to be impetigo.
Impetigo is a skin infection caused by staph infection. As our pediatrician explained, the bacteria responsible for this nasty condition lives on everyone’s skin. It’s just kind of there all the time, hanging out and waiting for an opportunity to bloom and cause problems. But only once the skin breaks open like when your lips get dry and cracked does the infection really have the chance to do its thing. Your skin is like a bouncer to an awesome club and impetigo is waiting in line to get in.
Impetigo looks like blisters filled with thick, oozing yellow puss. These blisters will dry out and turn to crusty sores. You may notice them anywhere on your child’s body but they typically appear on the face around mouth and nose, likely because those are the areas where dryness can be the most persistent.
Parents should know that impetigo is highly contagious and anyone can catch it. Furthermore, if your child who has impetigo scratches a sore then touches another part of her or his body, that bacteria can spread and cause more sores. Not fun. This is why good hand washing habits are an absolute must. Teach your child to use soap and warm water and to wash for the duration as singing the alphabet.
To treat impetigo, see your family doctor who will confirm the infection and prescribe an ointment that you apply directly to the sores for a period of time, generally a week or so depending on your child’s situation.
To prevent impetigo, keep kids skin clean and dry. But not too dry! Use lotions and chap stick and try to encourage a healthy habit of drinking water throughout the day, which has oodles of benefits not the least of which includes healthy skin.
When my son was diagnosed with impetigo, I had never heard of it and didn’t realize that he had been highly contagious for at least a full day – and at school surrounded by other kids and teachers – before he received his first ointment treatment. I alerted the staff and school nurse and they quickly went into action to disinfect my kid’s classroom. Luckily, no one else caught it and his case healed up quickly.
Lastly, as parents, we get a ton of flack about our choices from what our kid’s wear to how they behave in public. Having a child with impetigo visible on his or her face can make a mom feel like a failure. But here’s the thing, impetigo, as annoying and unpleasant as it may be, is incredibly common. So, fear not, moms and dads, you got this.