Q: I just developed impetigo. How does one get it as an adult?
Impetigo is a superficial skin infection that is common in young children; however, individuals of any age can be affected. Impetigo is usually caused by bacteria from the staphylococcal (commonly known as staph) or streptococcal (commonly known as strep) species. Generally, those who are affected are carriers of these bacteria, meaning that their nostrils are colonized by the bacteria.
A break in the skin can lead to a point of entry for the bacteria, allowing an infection to form. If the skin is disrupted from scratching, for example because of an underlying problem – such as with eczema or a dermatitis due to poison ivy, for example – the bacteria can enter the skin. This process is called secondary impetiginization, which is an infection that results after an initial problem with the skin.
Young children often develop impetigo around the nose or mouth as a result of colonization of the nostrils, but the disease can occur anywhere – particularly if the skin barrier is disrupted in another part of the body. Impetigo will generally resolve on its own in a matter of weeks, but the use of topical or oral antibiotics prescribed by your doctor can hasten resolution of the infection.