Pure Liquid Gold
General Health Information
Normally the skin provides a very effective barrier and protects the body from infection. But when the skin is broken, as by a cut or scratch, an insect bite, a burn, or a pre-existing skin rash caused by eczema or by an allergic reaction to poison ivy, soap, or cosmetic products, bacteria can enter and cause infection.
With impetigo usually a cluster of small blisters or red bumps appears first at the site of infection. These blisters will grow and rupture within about twenty-four hours. The skin exposed when the blisters burst appears red and inflamed, and will often leak either pus or a thinner fluid, which may be clear or slightly cloudy. If the infection is left untreated, the lesions may grow quite large, and will almost certainly spread to other parts of the body. Over a period of four to six days, the lesions will begin to form thick tan or honey-colored crusts.
Impetigo can infect skin on any part of the body, but the infection usually occurs initially on skin that is not covered by clothing, especially on the face (usually around the nose and mouth) and on the hands. The arms and legs, too, are common sites for impetigo infection, though less so than the face and hands.
Anyone can get impetigo, but it is most commonly found in children, probably because they so often have cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or other minor injuries on their skin from playing outdoors. People living or working in crowded conditions, such as schools, daycare facilities, and military bases, are also at higher risk of being infected through contact with another person who already has the infection or, less commonly, through contact with clothing, towels, or bedding contaminated by discharge from impetigo lesions. Family members of a person who already has impetigo are similarly at risk of contacting the condition from direct contact with discharge from the lesions.
Impetigo is highly contagious. Whenever one person has impetigo, precautions must be taken to prevent it from spreading to others. Because bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments, most cases occur during the hot, humid summer months. That is also the time when children are outdoors playing in shorts and short-sleeved shirts, so they are more likely to have small skin injuries that provide an opening for the bacteria.
Poor nutrition, poor personal hygiene, unsanitary living conditions, or an illness that has lowered an individual's resistance are also risk factors for developing impetigo. Bacteria live on the surface of the skin. If a skin injury is not kept clean, it is an invitation for those bacteria to invade the body and cause infection. Although many cases of impetigo do arise spontaneously because the bacterial agents exist already on the skin and in the environment, most cases are probably contracted by coming into direct contact with discharge from an impetigo lesion. This can occur either by touching the lesion or, less commonly, by coming into contact with such articles as clothing, towels, or bedding that have been contaminated by discharge.
To prevent the patient from spreading impetigo to other parts of his body you should avoid scratching or touching the lesion. A child may find it hard to follow these directions, especially as impetigo itches. A child who has impetigo should have thier fingernails cut short. It will also probably be necessary to cover the infected areas with gauze and surgical tape.
Plastic bandages should be avoided, however, because they create a warm, moist environment that would encourage the growth of bacteria and slow the healing process. To prevent impetigo from spreading to other members of the household, each person in the family should have his own towels, and the towels, clothing, and bedding of the patient should be laundered daily using grapefruit seed extract. The person who washes and bandages the impetigo lesions should carefully wash his or her hands after direct contact with the sores, and used bandages should also be disposed of carefully.
It is easier to prevent impetigo or to treat it and prevent contagion when it is in its early stages than when lesions have begun to spread and to discharge fluid. While the skin lesions are healing, they should be cleansed daily, using an antiseptic soap. If an area is crusted, soak it in warm, soapy water before washing, in order to remove the crust.
A child with impetigo should be kept home until his skin has completely healed. If left untreated, a single case of impetigo can lead to several more, either within a single household or throughout a school, a daycare facility or any other setting where people, especially children are likely to come into close contact with each other.
Even apart from the terrible sores and the danger of contagion, an untreated case of impetigo can have potentially deadly consequences. If the responsible bacterium is streptococcus, it may invade beyond the skin and develop into scarlet fever.
This disease, which is caused only by certain strains of the strep bacterium, is characterized by high fever, chills, vomiting, sore throat, and a fine red "sandpaper" rash. If left untreated can damage major organs and even lead to death. In rare cases, the bacterium can also cause post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, an infection of the kidneys that follows about ten days after a strep infection and causes temporary kidney failure.
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