My stepdaughter suffered from staph infection last year. We have no idea how she got it, but it isn’t easy to get rid of… that’s for sure. – Rachel Bieber, Poughkeepsie, NY

Years ago, my son had impetigo. We never knew where it came from. We had to use an ointment to help dry it up. Fortunately, it did not leave any scaring. Dan Syrlik, Lake Worth, FL

I think impetigo is pretty common among children and we’re not sure if Parker’s celluitis was from staph or MRSA… I think treatment depends on how severe it is. Kelli Palcisko, Perrysburg, OH

I had impetigo as a kid. The only thing I remember about it was that it was ugly and embarrassing. David Eoff, Bowling Green, OH

My 8 year has had staph/impetigo when he was younger. They gave him antibiotics and a cream and it went away in about a week. Crystal Sanchez, Miami

Like parents across the country, Key West’s Carol Fitzick, an employee at Simonton Court Bed and Breakfast vividly recalls one of her four children contracting impetigo.

“I can still see the picture. It’s a common childhood disease, just like the chicken pox. Oh, it was nasty looking. You think it’s a dirty disease.”

But, impetigo is not. The strain of staph is highly contagious and common in children. Still, that doesn’t lessen the impact of the stigma.

“I thought this only happened to people that were unclean, and then I realized that’s not true. I realized it is viral. I had that perception it shouldn’t happen to me. Infection shouldn’t happen to my kids.”

Nurse practitioner, Renee Grier, ARNT, who assists at Dr. Kelley Valle’s office in Key West says when the school year starts, staph shows it’s face – on youngsters’ faces.

“They’re all playing together, they’re all sitting together, they have their hands around their mouths, noses, and their eyes. Staph spreads easy in close quarters.”

And grows rampant in moist climates. Anywhere people are sweating, working out, participating in athletic activities, staph can be found. This year the Monroe County Health Department has not seen an outbreak in the school district since school started in August and educates the public with this: impetigo is a common bacterial sore that can be acquired from certain bacteria found on the skin or in the nose. It is estimated that up to 30 percent of the general population carries the bacteria in their noses without even knowing it.

Our pets are also carriers, and your child can contract the virus while hugging or kissing Fido. According to Grier, for staph to enter your or your child’s system, all there needs to be is a tiny break in the skin and reduced immunity because they’re tired, rundown, or stressed.

Pediatrician, Dr. Stanley Sack, MD, F.A.A.P. says children are at risk if they have been in close contact in a closed setting. Casual contact is reason to raise concern. As a parent, if you see unexplained blisters or sores, seek medical attention.

“Especially if there is surrounding redness. Staph is a big problem nationally and not limited to Key West. Since staph is spread by skin-to-skin contact, the fact that year-round we wear less clothing will factor in to infection.”

Fitzick recalls taking her son to their family pediatrician.

“They knew right away by looking at it, what it was. They don’t even have to do cultures.”

Grier says this is what you can look for in yourself or your children to realize you are infected.

“It starts real innocuously, like one or two little tiny pustules. It looks like a pimple of something. It’s itchy and it will often spread very quickly.

If you start with one pustule and the next day you have three or four right in close proximity or you’ve been touching your face, you’ve been putting your hands on your face and you suddenly have more, it’s a good possibility it’s Impetigo.”

At the time, her son had a baby-sitter, Fitzick recalls, and can only guess that setting is where he picked up staph.

“I’ll just never forget what it looked liked. He was treated with antibiotics and a topical cream. The experience was similar to the chicken pox because you can see it.”

Impetigo doesn’t scar and takes ten days to two weeks to clear up. Liquid Bandage is often used to create a barrier between the sore to prevent spreading. Impetigo remains contagious until a scab forms. Anyone infected can return to school or work 24 hours after treatment has started.

To protect yourself and your children head these tips.

• Do not share or reuse towels
• Wash gym clothes
• Wipe off gym equipment with antiseptic
• Wipe off grocery cart with antiseptic
• Do not put hands in mouth, ears, or nose
• Wash your hands with soap and water


Nurse practitioner Renee Grier, ARNT

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