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Impetigo

Impetigo is an extremely contagious skin infection widespread among children of pre-school going age and attributable to streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. In recent time, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is also turning out to be a major cause for this contagious skin infection. This infection transmits by means of direct contact with the fluid oozing out of the infected area and/ or using contaminated clothing. However, impetigo does not have anything to do with hygiene or absence of it. While good cleanliness of the skin is vital, it is not necessary that any child who develops impetigo is untidy or unhygienic.

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As mentioned earlier, impetigo mostly affects the skin of small children and generally results in the eruption of sores or blisters on their face, hands, necks as well as the area covered by diaper. Precisely speaking, this skin infection usually affects children of pre-school going or school going age. It may be noted that a child may be more susceptible to developing impetigo if his/ her skin has already been affected by any other skin problems, for instance insect bites, cuts, eczema, poison ivy or even owing to any trivial trauma.

Initially, impetigo looks like a course, ruptured and inflamed area, usually appearing on the face or legs of small children. The reddishness develops into irritating abrasions that may vary from pinhead to bean in size. Soon the blisters, full of fluids, develop into revealing honey-hued crusts - the characteristic symptoms of this skin infection. Removing the crusts do not help in any manner as when one crust is got rid of, another crust forms in its place. In effect, the fluid in the blisters is responsible for spreading this condition.

It may be noted that although impetigo is most common among kids, it may develop in various forms as well as among people of different age groups. When impetigo develops in newborns, it is considered to be an intense toxic condition requiring immediate treatment. One dangerous and untreated type of impetigo is known as ecthyma and this condition is distinguished by fierce-looking boils, sores surrounded by reddened skin and crusts having a dense golden-yellowish hue.

Bullous impetigo (having large blisters) and non-bullous impetigo (crusted) are the two forms of this bacterial skin infection. Among these two types, the non-bullous or crusted impetigo is most widespread. This form of the disease is caused by Staphylococcus aureus, but it may also occur owing to an infection with group A. streptococcus. In its initial stage, non-bullous impetigo appears as minute blisters that rupture sooner or later leaving behind little soggy areas of reddened skin, which will possibly ooze fluid. In due course, the affected area would be covered by a tan or yellowish-brown scab making it appear as if the spot has been smothered with honey or brown sugar.

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On the other hand, bullous impetigo, which is marked by large blisters, is almost all the time caused by the bacterium S. aureus that discharges toxic substances that set off the formation of comparatively large blisters containing fluids, which initially have a clear appearance, but later turns cloudy. Unlike in the case of non-bullous impetigo, the blisters caused by bullous impetigo usually remain on the skin for a longer period before rupturing.

When the bacteria impinge on only a small area of the skin, particularly if the infection is of non-bullous type, it is possible to treat impetigo using an antibiotic cream. On the other hand, if the bacterial infection spreads to several areas of the body or the antibiotic ointment does not work, doctors are likely to prescribe an antibiotic liquid or pill that is normally taken for seven to ten days at a stretch. When the treatment with antibiotics has begun, the infection should start to heal in a few days' time. In such cases, it is vital to ensure that your child takes the medications prescribed by the doctor strictly according to his instructions. If this is not done, the child may suffer from a deeper and more severe skin infection.

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As the infection begins to heal, it is important to gently rinse the infected skin areas using clean or sanitized gauze and an antiseptic soap at least once daily. The areas of the skin where crusts have formed should be soaked in warm, lathered water with a view to facilitate the removal of the crust layers. However, it is not essential to get rid of all the crust layers completely.

Supplements and herbs

See age-appropriate dosages of herbal remedies

A number of herbs and supplements have proved to be effective in treating impetigo. For instance, when the powder of goldenseal is applied externally as a paste on the infected areas, it is extremely useful to dry up and heal impetigo. Researchers have found that the herb goldenseal encloses anti-infective compounds like beta-hydrastine, berberine, canadaline and canadine. These anti-infective chemical substances have been found to be especially useful to heal infections attributable to staphylococcus and streptococcus, which have already been mentioned as the two major reasons for developing impetigo. The standard prescribed dosage of goldenseal herb is taking one 250 mg tablet thrice every day. Apart from the tablet form, goldenseal may also be bought in the ointment or liquid form for topical use. The ointment or liquid form of goldenseal should be directly applied to the infected areas at least thrice every day. In addition, calendula possesses gentle disinfectant attributes as well as comforts the skin. Formulations with this herb may be applied topically to the infected areas in the form of tincture, cream, gel or ointment two times daily for healing impetigo.

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Alternately, you may also use the seeds of grapefruit, which possesses antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal attributes. You should opt for an extremely concentrated variety of grapefruit seed, for instance Nutrabiotic, Citricidal or Paramicrocidin. For best results, give the grapefruit seed formulations in dosage of five drops in a glass of juice at least thrice every day for about a week. However, it needs to be mentioned that the flavour of this liquid is extremely bitter and most kids may be unable to tolerate it.

Another herbal product, the tea tree oil also possesses potent antibacterial and antifungal attributes. Use about eight to ten drops of tea tree oil in one quart (a quarter of a gallon or two pints) of warm water and apply the blend topically to the areas infected by the bacteria at least two times every day. Following examination of previous researches, scientists have noted that currently there is enough proof that indicates that the tea tree oil is a useful remedy for the staphylococcus bacterium that is responsible for impetigo. Additionally, scientists have also discovered that the common tea also seems to provide protection against impetigo.

In addition, garlic too possesses antibacterial as well as detoxifying properties. If your child has developed impetigo, you may also give him/ her garlic supplement. If you are giving the patient a garlic supplement follow the dosage instructions mentioned on the label of the product till the infection is healed completely.

A combined formula of the herbs Echinacea and goldenseal is also an effective remedy for impetigo You may give one dose of this combined herbal formula to your child four times daily for 10 consecutive days. However, it is important to note that you ought not to give your ailing child Echinacea for more than 10 consecutive days at a stretch for continuing this herb for long will make it lose it efficacy. For those uninitiated, Echinacea possess antiviral attributes, while goldenseal possesses antibacterial attributes and is, at the same time, calming for the mucous membranes.

Another herb that is excellent for topical use on the skin parts affected by impetigo is usnea moss. This herb has proved to be an effective remedy for this bacterial infection. Prepare an ointment with usnea moss and apply it externally to the affected areas at least once or twice every day. Using the herbal product Super Salve, which contains a combination of a number of herbs, including Echinacea, usnea, hops and chaparral, is also recommended for topical use on the skin parts affected by impetigo. This combination salve not only combats the bacterial infection, but also helps to calm the irritation caused by the disease.

Olive oil possesses gentle antiseptic properties and since the biblical times it has been known to be beneficial for the skin. Of late, scientists in Turkey have discovered that olive oil also encloses oleuropein and rutin - two potent chemical substances that are highly effectual against bacterial infections, including those caused by staphylococcus aureus. It is advisable that people suffering from impetigo apply a small amount of olive oil over as well as around the area infected by the bacteria, for a minimum of four times daily. In fact, olive oil is mostly used as a preventive measure against bacterial infections and several other skin conditions. For instance, an individual who is in touch with anyone who has impetigo already should apply olive oil on his/ her body every day. This is more important if the individual has some kind of skin injury that may considerably enhance the risk of developing impetigo.

Numerous researches undertaken on this subject have exhibited that zinc has a vital role in enhancing the immunity of humans. Findings of one particular research have shown that zinc has the aptitude to lower the risk of impetigo in premature babies. This is considered to be a very significant finding, since the immune system of premature babies is such that they are susceptible to develop various infections, including impetigo. Zinc is used in the form of zinc citrate and its recommended dose for adults is 15 mg taken every day.

It has been found that myrrh oil has the potential to lower the intensity of chemical substances that cause inflammation, for instance tumour necrosis factor and interleukin (any substance taken out from white blood cells and which encourages their action against infection) in the blood stream. This is a significant issue, since maintaining the concentrations of these chemicals at the lowest level denotes that one's body has a much better chance of combating infections successfully. Some time back, doctors had mentioned about a case wherein a diabetic patient was treated using a blend of myrrh and honey with a view to control a severe infection attributable to staphylococcus aureus - the bacteria responsible for impetigo. The infection of this diabetic patient healed completely owing to application of this blended remedy on a daily basis. The doctors were of the view that the infection was healed successfully owing to the anti-infective attributes of myrrh coupled with the antiseptic and comforting actions of honey.

It may be noted that Manuka honey is especially highly effectual for healing severe infections, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). To obtain the utmost benefit from using Manuka honey, it is advisable that you take around two to three teaspoonfuls (about 10 g to 15 g) of this substance prior to taking your meals. Alternately, you may also add a small number of drops of myrrh to water and wash the skin areas affected by impetigo or other infections. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that the potency of the mixture/ blend may differ depending on the product you choose to buy. Hence, it is important that you strictly follow the instructions of the manufacturer before using it.

Aromatherapy

Commonly used essential oils for impetigo:

Additional things you may do

Healthy hygienic practices like washing the hands regularly may help in avoiding occurrence of impetigo. Ensure that your children make it a habit to use soap and water to clean their skin and also make certain that they bathe regularly or take showers every day. If your child sustains any injury, such as insect bites, scrapes, cuts, rashes, eczema and even inflammation or eruption caused by poison ivy, inspect the affected areas closely and always keep those affected areas clean as well as covered. If any person in your household develops impetigo, ensure that they keep their nails short and also keep the infected areas wrapped with gauze and tape.

In addition, you ought to take all measures to avoid impetigo from spreading among other members of the family by making them use antibacterial soap as well as making sure that all family members use individual towels. In case it is necessary, you should replace paper towels with cloth towels till the bacterial infection has been completely banished from your household. The towels, bed linens and clothing of the person infected with impetigo should also be separated from those used by other members of the household. Also ensure that each individual's clothing, towels and bed linens are always washed in hot water to prevent impetigo from spreading. Last, but not the least, make sure that the surfaces of the kitchen and other areas in your household are always kept clean.

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