Prevent Contagious Skin Conditions This School Year
September 14, 2009
By Melssa D'Amico for Body1
The beginning of a new school year brings a variety of new opportunities for your child: new teachers, new classes, new friends, and unfortunately, new chances to become exposed to illness. Young children and adolescents are at an increased risk for certain skin conditions. Although the symptoms may be treated easily, the highly infectious nature of these conditions means that they can rapidly spread throughout a school if not effectively contained. Here is an overview of five common skin conditions, their and their symptoms.
1. Impetigo. This highly contagious skin condition, most commonly found in children between the ages of two to six, is caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Impetigo begins as itchy, red sores that blister and release fluid, eventually becoming covered with honey-colored scabs. Skin lesions of this condition are usually found on the arms, legs, or face. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), impetigo can easily be spread throughout the body through contact with sores and their discharge on the skin. Scratching an affected area may also spread an outbreak.
2. Scabies. This skin condition is caused by a small parasitic mite called Sarcoptes scabiei and can affect a person at any age. These mites burrow in the skin, leading to itchy, blistered bumps. In children, common sites of infestation include the scalp, face, neck, palms of the hand, and soles of the feet. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), scabies is highly contagious and easily spread through close physical contact in a family, daycare, or school setting. Mites are able to live for up to 14 days away from a host, and are commonly transferred to objects such as couches, keyboards, toilets and bedding. As a result, doctors generally recommend that anyone potentially in contact with these mites should be treated. It is common for individuals to experience itching for several weeks following treatment before the condition is completely removed.
What to do if your child shows signs of a contagious skin conditions
Contact your child’s physician
Clean the affected area (remember to wear gloves to avoid spreading the condition)
Cover the affected area with a dressing such a gauze to prevent scratching
Apply topical or oral medication to the affected area (as directed by a physician)
Inform your child’s school of his/her condition to ensure that proper prevention methods are taken
Keep your child home from school during the condition's contagious period
Wash all clothing, belongings, and household items that may have picked up bacteria, fungi, etc.
3. Athlete's foot. This fungal infection, also called tinea pedis, is caused by skin fungi called dermatophytes and is found on the foot or between the toes.This infection can appear with a variety of symptoms including stinging, itching, and/or burning in the affected area. The affected skin may also become cracked and peel. Athlete’s foot can easily spread in public places such as communal showers, locker rooms, and fitness centers.
4. Ringworm. This condition, also known as tinea corporis, is another fungal infection of the skin, characterized by an itchy, red rash in the shape of a ring (a circle with healthy-looking skin in the middle). Ringworm develops on the top layer of the skin, generally affecting the arms, legs, stomach, and face and is highly contagious. According to the CDC, outbreaks are common in schools, daycare centers, and infant nurseries. This condition can be spread through human to human contact as well as animal to human contact. These fungi can also survive and be spread though objects touched by an affected person, such as towels, bedding, and clothing.
5. Warts. A wart is a skin growth caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which enter the body through broken skin. The virus causes the top layer of skin to grow rapidly, forming a wart. They are most commonly found on children and young adults and can grow anywhere on the body. Warts can be spread through physical contact with a wart or by sharing personal items. Generally, a doctor can tell if a skin growth is a wart by looking at it, but may also perform a skin biopsy, looking at a skin sample under a microscope, to confirm the condition.
There are five different kinds of warts:
Common warts grow mainly on the hands, but they may be anywhere on the body. They are rough, shaped like a dome, and gray-brown in color.
Plantar warts grow on the soles of the feet. They look like hard, thick patches of skin with dark specks on them. They may cause pain when you walk.
Flat warts usually grow on the face, arms, or legs. They are small, have a flat top, and can be pink, light brown, or light yellow.
Filiform warts usually grow around the mouth, nose, or beard area. They are the same color as your skin and have growths that look like threads sticking out of them.
Periungual warts grow under and around the toenails and fingernails. They look like rough bumps with an uneven surface and border. They can affect nail growth.
If your child or their classmates become affected by one of these skin conditions, simple precautions can be taken to prevent them from spreading to others. (See Take Action Box) Just remember, it is important to identify and treat these skin conditions quickly and effectively to keep your children healthy this school year.