Impetigo: Wrestling With Skin Infections

Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin.  It is sometimes mispronounced “infant-igo” because it is so common in children. 

Mom Fail

I am going to be open and vulnerable in this blog because skin infection has hit so close to home recently.  It all began, as most skin infections do, with a simple wrestling practice.  Both of our high-school-aged boys, Caden and Carson, wrestle, but Caden was out due to injury.  Carson went through the normal drills with the team and ended up with a scratch on his chin.  Later, I asked if he had applied COMPEL to his skin before and after practice.  He said he had.

The next day, the scratch was a little red and he ended up with mat burn on his ear and right side of his face.  For those unfamiliar with mat burn, it’s like rugburn only with less skin left at the site of injury.  It is like, “Here, let me scrape off sections of your face with this dull razor.”  While the wounds need to air-out, they are vulnerable to infection.


Carson was understandably reluctant to apply COMPEL because the alcohol in the formula burns when the skin is raw.  I reminded him to wash with antibacterial soap until his skin had healed enough to apply COMPEL without pain. A couple days later when I examined his chin and ear, I exclaimed, “It is infected!  It looks like impetigo!  Have you been washing your face and applying COMPEL?”  He became defensive and indignant insisting that yes, he had been doing that.  I didn’t believe him, sharing my doubts as to the accuracy (or at least the consistency) of his claims, and he stomped out of the room shouting something unintelligible (or at least something that my subconscious decided I did not need to hear).

Judge not…

Please don’t be too quick to judge.  Either nod sympathetically or thank God that you have no idea what I’m talking about.  Carson is 15 and has been bathing himself for several years now.  The only time I am hypervigilant about his hygiene is during wrestling season.  I will reluctantly admit that sometimes I look at my kids without really seeing them. Maybe I cannot tear my eyes away from the bedhead or the unmatched sweatshirt and sweatpants.  Perhaps I am blinded by morning breath or the odor wafting from his or her t-shirt. (“Didn’t you wear that yesterday?”)

Either way, I let days go by before noticing that Carson had crusty patches over the sores.  They were clearly not scabs that would indicate healing.  They were dark yellow and the skin around them was red.  I did a quick calculation and realized skin check for the tournament was two days away.  Sometimes the “angry” and “extremely concerned” emotions are interpreted the same way by my face.  Panic turned to accusation as I confronted him on how consistently he’d been following hygiene protocols at practice and at home…as if 17-years’ experience as a mom has led me to the belief that the accusation tactic works. Word to the wise:  it doesn’t.  Oh, and if you use the interrogation method, make sure your “how” questions are very specific and your “when” questions are time-sensitive.

Frustrated, I washed my hands of the situation (see what I did there?), told him to go wash up, apply COMPEL, and pray he could even practice that afternoon.
The day before the tournament, the athletic trainer thought that the sores looked suspect, so he passed him under condition that they would be significantly improved by the next day.

Judgement Day

I had packed lunches and extra snacks and begun the 45-minute drive to the tournament when I got the call from my husband, Chad, who was already at the school.  I could hear the discouragement in his voice.  “What’s wrong?”, I asked.  Then I heard the words that shot fear, concern, anger, regret, disappointment, incredulity, sorrow, and indignation through my heart (must have been buckshot). 
“Carson failed skin check.”  He explained that the nurse and referee were uncertain about the diagnosis but failed him just to be on the safe side.
I wish I could say my first thought was for my son who was missing out on mat-time and the chance to compete or worry for his team because he’d let them down.  Those concerns did, of course, cross my mind.  But selfishly, I was embarrassed. 

Here we were, his father and I, launching a skin care product that was getting great customer feedback and amazing scientific test results, and our own son fails a skin check!  I felt like giving up.  I had product samples to give to coaches, wrestlers, nurses, and athletic directors, but the last thing I wanted to do was show my face at that tournament.  I pulled the car over and stewed for several minutes.  (Okay, I cried. I told you I was going to be vulnerable. So dumb.)  Then I prayed, remembering God’s promise to be with me, His challenge for me to “Run!” at the beginning of this journey, and knowing I had to keep going because we have a product that works…when it is used!

When I arrived at the tournament, I gave the nurse the sample of COMPEL and eagerly answered her questions.  Carson came up to me, looked me in the eye and sincerely apologized.  Caden appreciated the sandwiches and Chad was grateful for the thermos of coffee. Deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

Better Than Okay

His coach saw it. His athletic trainer saw it. His team manager saw it.  His teammates saw it.  A tournament referee saw it.  The tournament nurse saw it.  His dad and I saw it (and cringed).  There is no denying the infection on Carson’s chin, cheek, and ear. 

When we got home on Saturday, Chad and Carson sprang into action.  They began a regimen of washing with antibacterial soap, applying COMPEL, three times the first day, three times the second and twice the third.  In a 48-hour period, with just eight (8) applications, Carson returned to practice on Monday afternoon clear of infection with skin that was healing and no longer compromised.  Everyone was amazed.  God took a humiliating situation and turned it into a story that is so… compelling… that I can share it with you now.  On Saturday I was asking God, “What are You doing?  Why would You allow this to happen?”  On Monday, it was as though He said, “This is what I’m doing.  This is why.”  That’s my God. He turns mistakes into testimonials. He gives beauty for ashes.  (Isaiah 61:3) He works all things for good and for His glory.  (Romans 8:28)

On With the Ss
As in the ringworm blog, here are the Ss I will be summarizing for impetigo:

Source: what it is, where it comes from
Spread:  how it functions and propagates
Setting:  where it thrives
Symptoms:  result of infection on skin; potential danger
Solution:  what gets rid of it

Source:  Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin caused by Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and beta-hemolytic streptococci, more commonly known as staph and strep.  There are two types, nonbullous and bullous impetigo.  Nonbullous is caused by both staph and strep bacteria.  Bullous is caused only by staph bacteria.  Impetigo affects over three million Americans every year, usually infants and children.

Spread:  Staph and strep both live harmlessly on the surface of healthy skin.  Impetigo is highly contagious and can spread by direct contact with the skin or with inanimate objects that are likely to carry infection- clothing, towels, toys, athletic equipment, furniture, utensils, etc.  Staph bacteria secretes a toxin that spreads impetigo to the surrounding skin. Impetigo caused by strep is contagious for around one to three days.  Impetigo caused by staph is contagious for around four to ten days.

Setting:  Impetigo takes advantage of traumatized skin caused by bites, scratches, and abrasions, lasting several days or weeks.  As mentioned in Spread, the bacteria is usually already present on the skin.  Warm, humid weather, crowded areas, and contact sports are risk factors for contracting impetigo.

Symptoms:  When compromised skin like a scratch or bite is infected with nonbullous impetigo, pustules form then burst to scab over with yellow-honey crusts (that description just ruins honey for me) that darken.  With bullous impetigo, a large blister containing clear yellow fluid forms.  The blister is delicate and easily bursts leaving skin raw and red.  Secondary infections may occur or recurring impetigo infections, but it is generally not serious and resolves within two weeks.

Solution:  Nonprescription antibiotics on the market are generally not effective.  Prescription topical ointments may be required, and widespread impetigo may require oral antibiotics.  There has been more concern recently about resistant strains of bacterial such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and if it is suspected, a culture may be necessary.  Good hygiene, including handwashing and application of COMPEL is an effective way to prevent the spread of impetigo.  Avoiding contact with someone infected with impetigo and cleaning or washing items that are likely to carry infection is also recommended. (Sometimes I just want to write “duh” at the end of these highly academic suggestions.)

COMPEL is highly effective in moisturizing skin and keeping it healthy, lowering the risk of infection.  Need more convincing?  Try it for yourself! 

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