What are school sores – And how to treat them

School sores

School sores is the common name for Impetigo, which is a skin condition. School sores, or impetigo, is very contagious, and easily spread around school age children. Find out more about the symptoms, treatments, risks and complications of school sores here.

What causes impetigo?

School sores is the common name for impetigo, which is a skin condition caused by the bacteria staphylococcus (`staph’) or streptococcus (`strep’) and is easily spread around school age children.

It appears as pimples, with blisters that scab. It is common in children over one and often appears in late summer and autumn.

In the early stages it is often confused with cold sores, but the conditions require different treatment. (Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which once contracted can lie dormant and reoccur throughout life).

Impetigo is highly infectious or contagious, so you need to keep your child away from school until the condition has cleared.

What are the symptoms of school sores, or impetigo?

Impetigo normally begins around the nose or mouth, but can appear anywhere on the body, including the arms and legs and moist areas such as the armpit or groin. In babies it can appear in the nappy area. The condition spreads rapidly.

  • It first appears as reddened skin
  • Red pimples then appear
  • Blisters of pus develop that eventually burst – these leave patches of yellow-crusted rash in older children.
  • If the blister is rubbed off, it leaves raw areas exposed.
  • Your child may also develop swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpit and groin

What do school sores look like?

This great little video from Streamingwell, gives a good overviews of Impetigo, and shows a number of different school sores pictures. This may help you to identify school sores in your own child:

Video Courtesy: Streamwell

How to treat school sores in kids

1 See your doctor or physician

Take your child to the doctor. Although the condition is not serious, it needs to be dealt with as it spreads easily and is contagious.

2 It’s likely you’ll be prescribed antibiotics

Antibiotics will be prescribed in the form of cream/ointment or an oral antibiotic dose. Ensure your child finishes the dose of oral antibiotics and do not use the antibiotic cream/ointment on anyone else.

3 Apply dressings if required

Some areas may need a dressing.

4 Good hygiene

Home care primarily involves hygiene practices to keep your child clean and avoid the impetigo spreading.

Risks and complications of impetigo

Conditions such as bites, scratches or eczema that allow bacteria to penetrate the skin also increase susceptibility to develop impetigo.

Serious complications are rare, but if untreated, there is a possibility the streptococcus bacteria can cause acute kidney disease.

Cellulitis, an infection deeper in the skin, can also occur in rare cases.

Young babies who contract impetigo can become very ill.

Recontact your doctor if impetigo becomes more widespread despite treatment or if your child becomes feverish and unwell.

What can I do for my child with school sores?

Home care for your child focuses on keeping them clean, comfortable and avoiding the spread of impetigo to other family members.

  • Be meticulous with hygiene, gently washing away crusted impetigo areas with warm water and then patting dry (use paper or kitchen towels or disposable face cloths that will not be re-used).
  • Do not force the crusts off the skin, just cleanse away if they slide off easily. Do not pop blisters. Any raw areas should be left exposed to the air to help them dry out.
  • Apply antibiotic cream with a cotton swab or put directly onto a clean dressing – do not squeeze the cream directly onto the sore from the tube, as this will transfer the infection.
  • Keep a close eye on any new patches of impetigo and if you find them, start treating immediately.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after treating the impetigo and discard old dressings and cotton swabs carefully.
  • Discourage your child from touching or picking at impetigo and get them to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly. Keep their nails trimmed short.
  • Wash towels, flannels, pyjamas, sheets, pillowslips and clothes in hot water and change regularly. Launder their clothes and linen separately to other family members’ – and do not allow them to share towels or other linens.
  • Ensure your child baths once or twice a day
  • Keep eating utensils separate from those used by others in the family.
  • To keep children comfortable, put them in loose clothing and at night try to ensure sheets or pyjamas are not irritating the skin.
  • Keep your child away from other children and babies until the condition has cleared.
  • All family members need to be meticulous about hand washing and cleanliness to ensure no cross infection occurs.

How to prevent catching school sores

  • Keep finger nails short
  • Bath or shower daily to keep skin clean
  • Keep any bites or cuts covered while kids are playing outside or at school, to prevent infection entering the body by this route
  • Ensure your children do not share swimming towels with friends
  • Change bedding after sleep overs

Now you know more about what school sores are, you may want to about 3 more, very common, children’s conditions often picked up from school. Find out about how to prevent and treat these conditions in our Ringworm, Warts and Head lice articles. Or, for more expert health advice check out Health and wellbeing section.

Kimberley Paterson

Kimberley Paterson is a writer and public relations expert living in Whangaparaoa. She had an initial career as a registered nurse and has spent the last 20 years writing about health and well-being.

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