The medical terminology of school sores is impetigo. It is caused by bacteria like staphylococcus or streptococcus. These bacteria live on the healthy skin but when the immune system is compromised for some reason, these bacteria can cause infections such as impetigo or sore throats. These school sores are very common in children and are very contagious and easily spread, hence the name. In adults the infection can spread when an infected individual is in close skin-to-skin contact with others, for example in sports.
Symptoms of School Sores in Adults
- The appearance is a cluster of blister-like papules that appear red and inflamed. These eruptions can begin to weep fluid.
- The look changes after a few days and becomes dry, yellow-brown and crusty.
- Normally these eruptions occur around the mouth and nose but can be spread to other parts of the body by contaminated clothing, towels and fingers.
- When the rash contains larger blisters, especially around the trunk of the body, it can be a less common form of impetigo called bullous impetigo.
- If there are deep ulcers that are pus-filled, this is a more serious form of impetigo called ecthyma.
- The bacteria that cause the condition are easily spread from individual to individual through breaks in the skin like cuts, scrapes or insect bites.
- Dried bacteria in the air can also transmit this infection.
- An individual can spread the infection from one area of the body to another by scratching or touching an infected sore and then touching another part of the body.
- Sharing certain personal items like razors, towels, bedding, clothes or sports equipment can also cause the infection to spread.
- Skin-on-skin contact with another individual can spread the bacteria. This is the most common way in which impetigo is spread.
- An infected person can similarly spread the bacteria from nasal discharge.
Transmission of School Sores in Adults
Once exposed to the bacteria, the signs and symptoms will appear between 1-3 days if the causal bacteria are streptococcus. When the bacteria causing the impetigo are staphylococcus, the incubation period is between 4-10 days.
How to Minimize the Spread of the Infection
- Stay away from work or any crowded areas until the papules are dried and crusty or 2 days after commencing antibiotic treatment. This includes preparing foods, contact sports and going to the gym.
- Wash all clothes, bedding or towels at very high temperatures to kill any active bacteria that may be present. Don't share these personal items with anyone else.
- Loosely cover the weeping sores with bandages after cleansing gently with soap and water.
- Avoid touching or scratching the sores.
- Wash hands regularly especially after handling the infected rash.
Prevention of School Sores in Adults
- Treat all cuts, scrapes, insect bites or eczema quickly to promote healing before the infection can occur.
- If adult school sores recur frequently, your medical practitioner may swab and culture the bacteria found around the nasal mucosa. If you test positive for staphylococcus bacteria, you may be prescribed an antiseptic cream for up to 10 days to clear the bacteria.
- Do not handle articles that an infected person has had contact with without taking the necessary precautions.
- You may return to work 48 hours after antibiotic treatment has started or once the rash has dried, crusted and healed.
Treatments for School Sores in Adults
- Use a mild soap or antibacterial one and water to gently cleanse the affected area and cover with gauze or other non-stick dressings. Take care not to scrub the rash vigorously because this will only irritate or further damage the skin, promoting spread of the infection.
- You can even use wet compresses to soften and remove the crusts.
- Use over-the-counter antibiotic cream after cleansing. Wash hands thoroughly after handling the rash.
- A mild vinegar solution, comprising of 15ml white vinegar mixed with 500ml of water, can loosen crusts if soaked in the solution for between 15-20 minutes.
- Wash all personal items with hot water and avoid sharing.
- Wash hands regularly and avoid touching the sores unnecessarily.
- Discard any old dressings by sealing in a plastic bag before disposal.
When at-home remedies fail or if the infection is too severe, your doctor will turn to antibiotic treatment.
- Prescription antibiotic cream like mupirocin can be prescribed. You will be advised to gently loosen and remove the crusts before application so that the antibiotic can penetrate the skin. The affected areas should be washed with a mild soap and warm water before application of the antibiotic. Treatment response is generally within 7 days.
- Oral antibiotics: an oral course of antibiotics may be prescribed when the school sores in adults is more widespread and may not respond to topical treatment. The type of antibiotic will depend on the severity of the infection, other underlying medical conditions and allergies to certain antibiotics. Oral antibiotics are generally given for 7 days and instructions should be followed strictly regarding the frequency of the doses and the full course should be completed. This is the only way to ensure the bacteria is completely eradicated.
Be aware some the oral antibiotics may have certain adverse effects like causing tummy ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. They can also cause the development of yeast infection in women, like thrush.