- A common bacterial skin infection mostly in children 2 to 5 years of age, but adults can get school sores
- The staph bacteria is found on the skin and in the nose of 30–50 per cent of people without causing disease. It will only cause an infection when it can enter through a wound or open skin. A staph infection normally only develops in the elderly, the very sick or those who have an open wound. Healthy people rarely become infected.
- It can only catch school sores by skin-to-skin contact. You cannot catch it just by being in the same room as an infected person. Good hand hygiene can prevent the spread of staph.
- Several medical studies indicate that children prone to atopic dermatitis and eczema have been prone to school sores.
Staph generally causes no problems or illness. If the bacteria enters the body through a wound, cut or graze, insect bites, abrasions, or open skin (e.g. broken skin from eczema), it results in an infection. Staph is one of the most common causes of skin infections and can cause serious wound infections.
What do school sores look like?
In most people (about 70%), the rash starts with a red area which develops into small blisters “bullous impetigo” filled with clear fluid or pus. The sores begin as red areas, or crops of small blisters, most commonly around the nose and mouth, and on the arms and legs. When the sores then burst and begin to weep, before drying with a golden yellow, honey-coloured scab, often referred to as a “non-bullous impetigo”.
The infected sores:
- Are less than 1 inch in diameter
- Start as small red bumps, which rapidly change to cloudy blisters, then pimples, and finally sores
- Often covered by a soft, yellow-brown scab
- May cause swollen lymph glands in the area near the sores
- Found to be draining pus
Small blisters (school sores) appear on the skin one to three days after being infected by staph. If it was a strep infection, it would be four to ten days. Commonly school sores can appear around the arms and legs. Similarly, if the school sores are around the nose and mouth area these are caused by a strep infection of the nose. This process usually takes about a week. People who are immune suppressed may have more lesions and these may take longer to clear up.
How to prevent school sores spreading?
Every time your child touches the school sore and then scratches another part of the skin with that finger, they can start a new site of school sore. To prevent this, encourage your child not to touch or pick at the sores. Keep their fingernails cut short, so the bacteria can’t live under their nails and spread. Wash their hands often with one of the antibacterial liquid soaps. Cover the sores with a Band-Aid if they are not on the face.
If only a small crop of sores is present, frequent washing with antibacterial body wash and water might be all that is needed. A prescription antibiotic ointment can also be used. Oral antibiotics are often necessary, if the sores are more widespread, or there is evidence of infection spreading into the deeper skin. Because school sores spread by skin-to-skin contact there often are small outbreaks within a family or a daycare centre. Avoid touching objects that someone with school sores has used, such as towels, sheets, clothing and toys, for instance.
If you have recurrent outbreaks of school sores this is usually due to the bacteria living in places that the antibiotics cannot reach. This includes the nasal passage, the fingernails and under the arms. Treating these areas is important, and your doctor can assist you in recommending antibiotic ointment for the nasal passage or other areas. Sometimes it is necessary to treat the whole family.
Can school sores be cured?
Yes. If your child develops the sores, the following measures can reduce the spread of infection, especially during the infectious stage, when the impetigo lesions are oozing or crusting over. Your family’s overall hygiene needs to be controlled by washing your hands often. Furthermore, change pillows and clothes more frequently and bath towels daily. It’s imperative to not use soap bars, and use an antibacterial body washes instead. Avoid scratching the bumps where possible and cover any infected sores with adhesive bandage or clothing. Health guidance is to not share towels, toys, or clothing.