Impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection that usually occurs on the face, neck, arms and legs.
There are two bacteria called streptococcus pyogenes and staphylococcus aureus that usually cause this problem.
The bacteria can infect the skin through a break (cut, insect bite or other injury) in otherwise healthy skin or through skin damaged due to other underlying conditions like scabies or eczema.
There are several different types of impetigo, such as impetigo contagiosa, bullous impetigo and ecythma.
It can happen to anyone, but is more common among young children and infants. Other risk factors include regularly attending a daycare or school, poor hygiene, warm weather, and having other types of skin infections, dermatitis, diabetes or impaired immunity.
Symptoms of impetigo vary depending on the type. However, common symptoms include red sores that pop easily, honey-colored crust that forms after the pustules burst, fluid-filled blisters, itchiness or a rash on the affected area, skin lesions and swollen lymph nodes.
Treatment for impetigo depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases can be treated with good hygiene and home remedies. If the infection spreads quickly and you do not get relief from the symptoms, consult a doctor.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for impetigo.
1. White Vinegar
To promote healing of the skin sores, it is essential to keep the affected area clean, using either water or an antibiotic wash.
You can prepare your own antibiotic solution with white vinegar. It will help stop the spread of the infection and dry up the affected area.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar in 2 cups of lukewarm water.
- Using a cotton ball, wash the infected skin with this solution.
- Pat the skin dry and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment.
- Cover the area lightly with gauze.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times daily until the infection is gone.
Note: Do not scrub the area while washing it, as it can irritate the skin.
2. Heat Therapy
You can use heat therapy to cure impetigo. Heat will help kill the bacteria responsible for this infection. In addition, it will help dry the sores and lesions caused by impetigo.
- Soak a washcloth in hot water and wring out the excess liquid.
- Apply the warm washcloth on the affected area for a few minutes.
- Repeat several times a day.
You can also use a blow dryer to apply heat on the affected area. Keep the settings of the blow dryer to a minimum.
3. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil can halt the spread of this bacterial infection. This essential oil has strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that help fight the infection and relieve the symptoms.
- Add a few drops of tea tree oil to 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Apply this mixture thoroughly over the affected area. Allow it to sit for 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water. Do this 2 or 3 times daily for a few days.
- Alternatively, add a few drops of tea tree oil to a small tub of lukewarm water. Use the solution to wash the affected area a few times daily.
Note: Do not consume tea tree oil orally, as it can lead to side effects.
4. Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is effective in curing impetigo. It has antioxidant and antibacterial properties and works as a non-toxic disinfectant.
- Add a few drops of grapefruit seed extract in 2 tablespoons of water. Apply it on the affected area with a cotton ball 2 or 3 times daily. It might cause some itching in the beginning, but it will cure the infection soon.
- You can also take GSE supplements twice daily for a speedy recovery. Always consult a doctor before taking any supplement.
Garlic is another effective infection-fighter with natural antibiotic properties that help kill bacteria. It can also help relieve itchiness and pain.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and fry 2 or 3 minced garlic cloves in it. Cool and strain the oil. Apply it on the affected area once or twice daily for a few days.
- You can also try adding a few raw garlic cloves to your diet. If taking a supplement, always consult a doctor for the correct dosage.
6. Manuka Honey
Manuka honey has antibacterial, antiseptic and healing properties that can help inhibit the growth of the bacteria that cause impetigo. It also speeds the healing of the sores on the skin and gives a boost to your immunity.
- Spread some manuka honey on the affected area. Leave it on for a few hours before washing it off with lukewarm water. Repeat a few times daily for a few days.
- Also, eat 1 to 2 teaspoons of manuka honey daily to help your body fight the bacteria.
You can also use the herb goldenseal to treat impetigo. It has antibacterial as well as antiseptic properties that can help disinfect the skin sores and blisters. It also helps strengthen the immune system.
- Prepare a cup of herbal tea by steeping 1 teaspoon of goldenseal powder in 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and allow it to cool. Use the tea to clean the infected area twice daily for a few days.
- Alternatively, apply goldenseal cream or lotion, readily available in the market, on the infected skin 2 or 3 times a day for about a week.
- You can opt to to take this herb in supplement form. For correct dosage and suitability, consult your doctor.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is effective in treating impetigo due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and skin-repairing properties. In addition, its antioxidants boost your immunity to help fight the infection.
- Cut open a fresh aloe vera leaf and extract the inner gel. Apply it directly on the affected skin and leave it on at least for 30 minutes. Reapply 2 or 3 times daily for a week.
- Also, drink aloe vera juice daily for strong immunity.
The mineral zinc plays a key role in improving immunity. It interacts with a cellular process that neutralizes bacterial infections and helps balance the normal immune response. It can even reduce the risk of impetigo among premature babies.
A 2012 study published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal showed the positive effect of antenatal zinc supplementation on impetigo in infants in Bangladesh.
- To help treat impetigo, include zinc-rich foods in your diet. Dietary sources of zinc include beans, nuts, some shellfish, whole grains, and fortified cereals.
- You can also take a zinc supplement of 15 to 25 mg per day to fight the infection. Always consult your doctor before taking a supplement.
10. Dietary Changes
Eating a healthy diet will help fight the infection, boost immunity and promote fast recovery.
- Include fresh vegetable and citrus fruit juices in your diet. Use vegetables and fruits with high levels of antioxidants to help the body fight off the infection.
- Drink 2 to 3 glasses of fresh apple juice daily.
- Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid refined sugars and fried foods for some time.
- Reduce or eliminate red meats from your diet until the infection has cleared.
- Make sure to drink an ample amount of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated.
- Do not touch the affected skin too often.
- Do not pick or scratch the areas affected by impetigo.
- Wash your hands regularly with antibacterial soap and avoid sharing towels.
- Take a bath or shower with warm water regularly.
- Wash linens and clothes in hot water and dry them under direct sunlight.
- Clean surface areas in the home with antibacterial products.
- Stay at home for a few days to prevent spreading this contagious skin problem to others.