Autumn 2013 True Natural Health Magazine – Your Questions Answered
By Roger French
QUESTION: My grandson has developed impetigo again after it was cleared up the first time by salt water and Goldenseal. His diet includes a lot of fruit and is mostly vegetarian. He is not given cows’ milk, only goats’ milk, soya milk, rice milk and oat milk. I would like to get to the bottom of why it has recurred?
Impetigo is a superficial bacterial infection of the surface of the skin, associated with the bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph), and frequently secondary infection by Streptococcus pyogenes. Fortunately, it is not a serious condition.
Impetigo is most common among children aged 2 – 6. A warm, humid environment is conducive to developing impetigo. People who play close contact sports such as football or wrestling are also susceptible, regardless of age. The name derives from the Latin impetere (assail). It is also known as ‘school sores’.
The two types of impetigo are non-bullous and bullous.
Non-bullous impetigo. This is the more common form, and is associated with both staph and strep bacteria. It initially appears as small red papules similar to insect bites. These lesions rapidly evolve to small blisters and then to pustules that finally scab over with a characteristic yellowy-coloured crust. The entire process takes about a week.
Bullous impetigo involves only by golden staph bacteria, which cause separation between the top and lower layers of the skin, forming a blister. (The medical term for blister is bulla.) Bullae are more likely to appear on the buttocks and trunk.
Eczema or the common cold predispose a child to developing impetigo.
Impetigo is contagious
Impetigo is contagious, primarily from direct contact with someone who has it, but sometimes from towels, toys, clothing or household items. Impetigo often spreads to other parts of the body, especially in the case of children.
If a child sustains any injury, such as insect bites, scrapes, cuts, rashes, eczema or even inflammation, always keep the affected areas clean and well covered.
Can impetigo be prevented?
Routine hand washing with soap and warm water is an important and effective mechanism to prevent the spread of impetigo.
Treatment – medical
In Natural Health, we look for wholistic reversal of a condition. This section is included for completeness only.
Impetigo is very treatable. Medically, mild impetigo can be handled by gentle cleansing, removing crusts and applying a prescription-strength antibiotic ointment.
Scarring is very rare because the crusts and blisters are superficial and generally don’t leave scars.
More severe or widespread impetigo, especially the bullous form, would often require oral antibiotics. It is virtually essential to take a live probiotic supplement after any course of oral antibiotics.
Although antibiotics normally provide effective treatment, they can weaken the immune system in the process. Another major problem with staph bacteria is that they have developed resistance to standard antibiotics. With wholistic methods, there is no such dilemma.
Remedies – wholistic
Wholistic remedies aim to make conditions unfriendly for the bacteria and also boost and strengthen the immune system.
The best results may be obtained by using a combination of some of the following.
Coconut oil. This has been found to sometimes work wonders for impetigo. After applying virgin coconut oil, the sores have been known to become dark and dry overnight.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis). This has been found to be very effective against staphylococcus and streptococcus infections, and is extremely useful for drying up and healing impetigo. Goldenseal can be taken as a tablet or can be applied directly to the sores in cream or liquid form three times daily. A combined formula of Echinacea and goldenseal might be more effective. Give a dose to the child four times daily, but don’t give Echinacea for longer than 10 consecutive days.
Calendula. Acts as a gentle disinfectant and also soothes the skin. It is applied topically as a tincture, cream or ointment twice daily.
Olive oil. This oil – that has been used for centuries – contains two natural ‘antibiotics’ (rutin and oleuropein) that can be effective against infectious bacteria, including staphylococcus aureus. A suggested usage is to apply a few drops of the oil on and around the sore four times a day.
Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia). Tea tree oil possesses potent antibacterial and antifungal properties and is effective against the bacteria. Either apply two to three drops of neat oil to the sores three times a day, or mix about eight to ten drops of the oil in one litre of warm water and apply to infected areas at least twice every day.
Zinc. This mineral has a key role in the efficacy of the immune system. In the case of premature babies who have immature immune systems and are more susceptible to impetigo, zinc can make them less vulnerable. Use zinc in the chelated form, for example as zinc citrate.
Manuka honey. This honey is extremely effective for treating serious infections, including the dreaded MRSA, so it would be worth trying with impetigo. Manuka honey has no adverse effects on healthy tissue, and is fine to consume. Ordinary honey does not have the healing properties of manuka. One suggestion is to swallow two teaspoonfuls (about 10 gm) before meals. Preferably follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Eat to support self-healing. Strengthen immunity and healing with a diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables, and low in animal-based foods. Avoid margarine, other polyunsaturated vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils and deep-fried foods that might contain trans-fatty acids. Instead use coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil and flax oil (for its omega-3 fatty acids).
Consume small amounts of ginger and turmeric regularly for their anti-inflammatory effects. Garlic is also a valuable ‘supplement’, but no more than one clove per day.