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An enormous number of bacteria reside on the skin’s surface (would you believe four million microbes on just the hands!). Usually the germs peacefully coexist with the human host, but on occasion they invade beneath the skin and cause disease. Preschool and school-age children are most commonly affected with this disorder, which has the highest prevalence in summer months. Impetigo begins as a small, itchy, reddish area that rapidly develops pus-filled pimples that exude a sticky fluid. Within one to two days, a thick, adherent, golden-yellow crust forms over the entire region. The face is the most common location, especially around the chin and nose. If neglected, the infection may spread to other parts of the body.
Impetigo is a very contagious, rapidly progressing infection caused by either the Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacterium.
Treatment of impetigo consists of applying warm water soaks to the affected sites three to four times daily, followed by the application of an antibacterial ointment. This should be thoroughly rubbed into all patches. The patient and close contacts (other family members) should bathe daily with an antibacterial soap. Extensive, rapidly spreading cases require antibiotics taken by mouth and should always be evaluated and treated by a doctor. Adequate therapy quickly resolves the infection and prevents more serious consequences.