Infantigo, also known as impetigo, is a very contagious skin infection that generally affects infants and children. The condition can be spread from person-to-person through direct contact with the sores. It can also be spread by touching items the infected person has touched---such as clothing, toys, towels, and bedding.
Infantigo can be caused by one of two bacteria, either Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known as staph, or Streptococcus pyogenes, which is more commonly known as strep. Both types of bacteria can live on the skin and cause no harm to humans. However, if they enter the body through a wound or a cut they can cause an infection.
Infantigo causes itching and it may produce swollen lymph nodes. Fever is rare. Infantigo will produce red sores. These sores will eventually rupture and drain for a few days, then they will crust over. The sores may drain clear fluid or pus. The most common locations for the sores are around the mouth and nose. Some severe cases of infantigo can result in the sores turning into deep ulcers. Infantigo generally clears itself from the body within three weeks.
Anyone who thinks their child may have infantigo should take their child to a physician. Doctors will often prescribe oral antibiotics and/or topical antibiotic ointments. While the skin condition itself isn't overly serious, it can sometimes lead to more serious infections.
Because infantigo is contagious, children should not be sent to school or day care until they are no longer contagious---which is generally 48 hours after starting antibiotics. Children should be discouraged from touching or scratching their sores. Cutting the fingernails very short is advised. A loose gauze dressing can be placed over the sores to help prevent the infection from spreading and to reduce the opportunity of children making direct contact with the sores with their fingers. Infected areas should be washed very gently 2 to 3 times a day with an antibacterial soap.
Anyone can develop infantigo, though it is more common in children because of the close proximity they have to each other in schools and child-care settings. It is also more common among children because their immune systems haven't matured. Adults who are caring for a child with the skin condition are at risk for developing infantigo over adults who do not have a family member with the skin condition.
To cut down on the chances of getting infantigo, the skin should be kept clean. Insect bites, scrapes, and cuts should be cleaned as soon as possible and antibiotic ointments should be applied. To prevent the spread of infantigo in the home, towels, clothes, and linens should not be shared between an infected individual and other family members.