What's Going Around: impetigo and boils - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

What's Going Around: impetigo and boils

Impetigo and boils are being seen in children at The Pediatric Center. (Source: medicinenet.com) Impetigo and boils are being seen in children at The Pediatric Center. (Source: medicinenet.com)

Two contagious skin infections are What's Going Around this week.  Pediatrician Lyle Stephenson with The Pediatric Center says he is treating children for skin problems every day, with impetigo and boils on that list.

If you have seen red sores that pop easily and leave a yellow crust, it is likely that you are looking at impetigo, common on the face, neck, and hands of young children.  Dr. Stephenson says it has a defining characteristic.

"Impetigo is a skin infection characterized by red skin that's got a little honey-colored crust in the middle," he said.  "That honey-colored crust is what defines it and it's caused by both staph and strep bacteria."

Dr. Stephenson says impetigo can spread to anyone who comes into contact with infected skin or items that have been touched by infected skin.  The summertime also breeds more cases.

"It can also infect intact skin as well and that's usually made possible during times of high heat and humidity, which is why we see a lot of it during the summer months," he said.

Impetigo can be treated with a topical antibiotic cream to prevent spreading and the child should not be contagious after 24 hours.  

Dr. Stephenson says another skin problem he is seeing this week is boils or abscesses.

"Usually there's a cut in the skin or some sort of small opening to where bacteria that have colonized have been able to get into the lower layers of the skin and essentially set up shop and expand," he said.

That bacteria, fluid and pus causes inflammation and pain.  Treatment involves draining the boil.
"You have to either drain it by squeezing it, putting a knife in it, and sometimes if they're big enough they have to be surgically drained," said Dr. Stephenson.  "Sometimes we give patients antibiotics afterward, but if we feel like there's been adequate drainage, we can just watch it without antibiotics."

Boils themselves are not contagious, but the bacteria that cause boils are.  Until it drains and heals, an active skin boil is contagious. 

Dr. Stephenson says it is very important to notice any changes with your child's skin.  If there is a break in the skin, any sort of swelling, pus or discharge, see a medical professional as soon as possible.  The earlier the problem is identified, the easier the course of treatment.  

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