Impetigo is a common and very contagious form of infection caused by staphylococcus bacteria (and sometimes streptococcus bacteria). Impetigo can break out on otherwise undamaged skin, and can cluster or start around a fresh or irritated piercing or tattoo. Assuming the mod is still healing, it can damage the healing and cause a secondary infection in the mod itself. It is also possible for an infection to be the cause of the impetigo or how it was introduced if you were at a studio with poor contamination control procedures. Impetigo may also leave (usually minor) permanent scarring. The best way to avoid impetigo is good hygiene, but it is certainly possible to get it even with strict maintenance.
Impetigo first looks like minor skin inflammation, and then starts to blister with pus or fluid inside. These blisters, which can be either tiny or quite large depending on the type of bacteria, will weep and crust; other blisters will form around them as the impetigo spreads. It is highly contagious (it will spread all over your body if you let it), and if you can, you should treat it in the first few days, so go see your doctor. Treatment options include:
- Nothing - Just wash with soap and water, being sure to gently remove the crusties, and let it air dry. For healthy people that catch it early, this can be enough.
- Antibiotic Ointment - For more serious impetigo that hasn't spread much, an antibiotic ointment is usually included in the treatment to help kill the infection.
- Oral Antibiotics - If the infection has spread to cover more of the body, an oral antibiotic is more effective than an ointment.
In all of the treatment options, it is very important that you do not scratch the impetigo, which will be quite itchy! Cover it with gauze and tape if you can't behave yourself. Once healing begins (if you're using antibiotics, it will take about 72 hours to kill off the infection), you could still be contagious for about a week. After that period, it will heal like any skin irritation or serious rash would.
L-R: Day 7, Day 7, Day 11, 2 Months