Summertime usually means hot and humid weather, with lots of insects, scratches and bites (animal and occasionally human).
Skin-to-skin contact often occurs during outdoor play, leading to all kind of rashes, including the spread of the impetigo, an infection of the superficial layers of the skin caused by streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph) bacteria.
Normally, the skin forms an effective barrier against bacteria. However, when skin breaks, bacteria can enter and cause infection.
Symptoms of impetigo include a red rash that oozes a honey-colored fluid, which may form a crust when it dries.
Sometimes the rash consists of superficial blisters that pop and leave a red base (this is called bullous impetigo).
Other times, lymph nodes near the sites of the rash will enlarge as the body stations white blood cells in them to fight off the infection.
Impetigo usually starts with a break in the skin, often caused by insect (or other) bites, trauma or dermatitis.
Especially in children, it can sometimes spread to healthy intact skin through direct or even indirect contact with staph or strep bacteria.
The rash is most commonly found on the arms, legs, upper chest and face.
It can sometimes get in the nostrils and the raw skin around the nose that children sometimes get at the end of a cold.
Fortunately, impetigo rarely scars the skin, although the rash occasionally will leave a darker or lighter patch on the skin.
On rare occasions strep impetigo can lead to a condition called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis where the kidneys (usually temporarily) shut down.
Impetigo is usually treated by a prescription antibiotic cream or ointment.
Sometimes oral antibiotics are needed, especially if the rash is widespread.
The rash is not usually contagious after 24 hours of antibiotic treatment.
Washing the infected areas with antibacterial soap and water also helps treat the rash, especially by limiting its spread. Lesions can be kept covered to minimize contact.
Towels and washcloths should not be reused (and should be washed after each use). Bed linens should be changed regularly and washed in hot water.
Soap and water are very important agents in preventing infection with impetigo. Washing the hands is especially important.
Not sharing personal care items that come in contact with the skin will also help prevent its spread.