(NC)-In most cases insect bites are harmless and if left alone, the irritation will subside within 48 hours.
However, for some people, particularly children, scratching bites may lead to a highly contagious bacterial skin infection called impetigo. Left unchecked, impetigo can spread to other parts of the body and even from person to person.
As a family physician, I recommend the following tips to ensure you and your family maximize your summer fun and avoid this irritating skin disease:
Apply an effective insect repellent as directed. As an alternative to chemical-based repellents, I recommend citronella-based products such as Natrapel®, particularly for young children.
Avoid scratching. To calm the itching, traditional products such as calamine lotion may be useful. I also recommend my patients use AfterBite®, a product designed to neutralize the allergens that cause the itch.
Keep fingernails short and clean. The bacteria streptococcal, which causes impetigo, hides under fingernails and enters the body when scratching the bite. Children are more vulnerable to this disease because streptococcal is often found in sand piles where kids play.
Recognize the symptoms. Impetigo is characterized by a red bump on the skin where yellow pus accumulates and dries, leaving a scab that can be itchy.
Protect the infection. Impetigo spreads easily through direct body contact, sharing towels, bedding and clothes. Although it is not a serious disease, it needs immediate attention to stop it from spreading.
Seek treatment. The best way to avoid impetigo is to treat a bug bite as soon as possible. Should impetigo develop, oral antibiotics and antibiotic creams may be required as prescribed by your doctor.
Dr. Brian Aw is a general practitioner, specializing in travel medicine.
Editors: These articles are for use in Ontario only
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