Another school year has started, and parents are more than ever concerned about their child’s welfare, especially their health. Since they won’t be around to look after them all the time, they are naturally wary.
Their kids interact with other kids and do activities that will most likely get their hands dirty and make them prone to certain skin infections. With their fragile skin at their young age, parents will necessarily do everything to protect their children from contracting skin infections.
Dr. Maria Lourdes Palmero, FPDS, explained that there are three forms of skin infections that parents should watch out for in their kids: bacterial, fungal and viral. She said the infections are based on etiology or the kind of organisms that cause it.
Bacterial infection is the most common, she said, caused mainly by Staphylococcus aureus, with minor skin infections such as impetigo or “mamaso” that usually has noticeable golden-yellow crusting that multiplies over time. There can also be folliculitis or small deposits of pus, usually in the hair follicles; then there’s furunculosis or “pigsa” in the vernacular, plus carbunculosis.
For fungal infections, there’s ringworm that is common to children; on the feet, it is called “alipunga” or tinea pedis; on the hands, tinea manum; on the face, tinea faciale; and on the groin, tinea cruris or “hadhad.” In terms of viral infections, it’s the common warts or verruca vulgaris, known in the vernacular as “kulugo” that may be seen more often in children.
Dr. Palmero explained the most common mode of transmission is through contact with an infected person but of course there are other factors. “Food is not a factor, but the environment, specifically the heat or moisture, may be associated to development of fungal infections. A child’s immune status can also be a factor; or if a child has skin barrier issues, like eczema or extremely dry skin, infection may be more easily acquired. These factors make the child prone to infections since organisms can easily enter the skin. Infectious agents may also come from other sources such as animal or pet fur, or even from soil.”
As interactions among kids happen mostly in school, Dr. Palmero said awareness and hygiene are key. “Kids in school who touch things everywhere should have a habit of frequent hand washing to lessen transmission of skin infection. Moisturization also helps to guarantee the skin’s barrier function so they don’t get infected easily.”
To know if their child has bacterial skin infection, parents can look for blisters with golden-yellow crusting that’s slightly moist. If there are small deposits of pus in the skin, that may be folliculitis; or if with nodules, child may have boils. For fungal skin infection, there’s usually a round patch with central clearing (ringworm). For viral warts, there’s usually rough lesions on the hands or feet.
“These are the common presentations to watch out for; but if there’s increasing severity, parents may notice symptoms like loss of appetite, fever, or body malaise, where the child feels tired or weak. This means the infection is progressing. Fever is the most important sign of worsening infection” Dr. Palmero continues.
She emphasized that parents should have basic ideas on the form of treatment for skin infections. For superficial bacterial skin infections), best options are topical medications that contain mupirocin. But if the infection comes with fever or if it prolongs, Dr. Palmero said it’s best to see a doctor. “Depending on the severity, seek doctor’s advice for systemic treatment, which can be oral or through IV (intravenous) that is administered directly through the bloodstream.”
Fungal infections merit a different medication, mostly the antifungals, such as clotrimazoles or the allylamines. For viral warts, salicylic acid may be used. Again, the treatment depends on the severity of the infection.
Dr. Palmero stresses one piece of advice for parents, though. Aside from teaching their kids proper hygiene, she said there are pediatric dermatologists in the Philippines that they can consult and rely on for advice to keep their kids infection-free. She said for the most effective and safe medical, surgical and cosmetic treatments for the skin, hair and nails, it is better to consult a dermatologist, preferably a member of the Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS), the country’s dermatology authority.
“The problem is many parents resort to self-diagnosis and self-medication. They give drugs that’s most of the time not really warranted. What’s scary is that what they’re doing may worsen the situation and prolong the child’s suffering from infection,” Dra. Palmero stated.
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