Impetigo can look gross - it usually shows up as a honey-crusted sore on or near the nose. But Dr. Melody Angel of Lansing Urgent Care says its bark is worse than its bite. "It's a very common illness. It's easily treated, it doesn't usually leave scars," Dr. Angel said.
As many as two out of every hundred people will get it this year. You, or more likely your child (it's not very common among adults), are more susceptible to the infection if you play contact sports or any other activity with lots of other young people, Dr. Nancy Weber, a doctor of internal medicine at McLaren Hospital, said. "It spreads from hands, scratches, faces," Dr. Nancy said. "You can see it in daycare where kids are in close proximity and sports where wrestling, you know what not."
So, like for most really contagious illnesses, doctors recommend very good hygiene to avoid catching it. "Just be really careful to wash your hands frequently and be a little bit conscious how much you're touching your nose and your face, another tip is being careful not to share equipment between people," Dr. Angel said.
And, most important, if you're diagnosed with impetigo, wait to get back in the game. "It's important for coaches and trainers to aggressively follow that, I know it's tempting sometimes to say, 'Oh c'mon, I need him in the game,'" Dr. Angel said, laughing. "But if they do follow those rules usually it can help to break the cycle."
Both doctors say definitely see a physician to get treatment and prevent it from spreading, but don't worry about the infection killing you or anything. "It doesn't mean that germs are taking over the world or anything," Dr. Angel said. "It just means that that local population has become a little bit more susceptible."
Dr. Angel says getting impetigo doesn't mean you're a dirty person and preventing impetigo requires teaching kids to be very, very clean.