Impetigo

A superficial vesiculopustular skin infection

Impetigo is an infection of the skin caused by either a streptococcal bacteria, or occasionally Staphylococcus aureus. The face is most commonly involved, but other exposed areas can be involved as well. Typically it involves children and is highly contagious. The characteristic appearance is one of multiple tiny pus-filled blisters which break readily, leading to a larger, more wide spread eruption forming the characteristic honey-colored crusts.. Itching is common and scratching may spread the infection.


Actions indicated for the processes behind this disease


Topical medications:


Anti-microbials are, of course, the key successful clearing of the infection, but work best topically.

Vulneraries may be helpful after the infection has cleared to ensure no discoloration or scarring of the skin occurs.

Anti-Puritics may, in theory, be helpful. In light of the infective organism being present on the skin, the itching may not be stopped until the infection is cleared.

Anti-Inflammatory herbs may be helpful but the same comments are relevant.


Internal medications:

Alteratives, Anti-microbials, Lymphatic Tonics, Diuretics, Hepatics: all of these may be appropriate internally for similar reasons to those given for eczema. They will not replace topical treatments. Such internal support of general health, elimination and immune response is not always necessary, but is indicated in a generally `sickly’ child.

Nervines may be called for if the child is experiencing much distress. However, it is usually the parents who benefit from taking the nervines!


Specific Remedies

I am nor aware of any specifics for Impetigo as such, but the stronger anti-microbials will all help. Topical applications of Myrrh (Commiphora mol-mol), Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis) and Ti Tree oil (Melaleucaalternifolia) have all proved useful. Ellingwood refers to the use of Echinacea both internally and externally as being successful.


One possible prescription:

Commiphora mol-mol

Hydrastis canadensis — — — equal parts of tincture.


Whilst being effective, the application of such high alcohol content tinctures may be too intense for the child. They may be added to a base ointment or lotion. An ointment may also be made directly from the dried herbs.


Apply topically as directed below.


Broader Context of Treatment:

Care with the lesions and application of herbs is very important, as the infection can spread through contact. Thus:


  • Remove the crusts gently with a warm wet washcloth, as the bacteria live underneath the crusts and will continue to multiply until the crusts are removed.
  • Apply the tincture or ointment.
  • The crusts should be removed and the ointment applied several times a day. This is important because if the lesion becomes too big and is not controlled the child may develop systemic complications.

Because of the highly contagious nature of impetigo, the child should be kept out of school until treated successfully for 2-3 days. Towels, sheets and clothing contaminated with drainage should be washed in Clorox or borax. It may be necessary to seek medical assistance under certain circumstances to avoid the systemic complications. If there is accompanying sore throat or fever, if the lesion is in an inaccessible area like the ear canal or nostril, or if there isn’t significant improvement after 2-3 days of treatment, please consult a doctor.

David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

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