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School Sores or Impetigo, a Horrible Tropical Disease.

Last Updated 17/09/2020

We live in the tropics, Far North Queensland, we get horrible tropical diseases, more so, because we have children, adorable little germ factories that they are.  Today’s disease is impetigo or school sores. It’s so bad I’m going to add it to my list of travel horror stories, I didn’t even have to leave home for this one!

One of the many disgusting things my son used to pick up in school was school sores. Nits and worms were other joys. A look at school sores, what they are, and what to do about them.

 school sores lesions ( impetigo) in adult , caught from child. caused by staphylococcus horrible tropical disease
School Sores. Horrible, sore, itchy, skanky, scabby  Impetigo lesions. Caught from my son!

Impetigo, School Sores or Staphylococcus

I was a scientist back in London, a medical laboratory scientist, specializing in Histopathology. I was a CHIEF medical laboratory scientist, actually.  I spent most of my days rummaging about in other people’s body parts, ensuring fixation was perfect, dissecting, processing, and making slides.

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So not much grosses me out and I’ve got a fair bit of knowledge about all things medical. But I still stuffed up on this one.

This week my son scraped his elbow, it looked a bit manky. Then a wet, oozy sore appeared on his hand. Then one nostril went all funky.

“Stop picking your nose!”

Then the other nostril, then, only a day later, his eyes were bright red and surrounded by small skin lesions with the characteristic golden crust.

So far I had slapped on a topical antibiotic cream (prescription only) and tea tree oil, they weren’t doing much good, but I hate giving the kids antibiotics. Once his eyes looked like something out of The Exorcist I knew it was time to visit the Doc’s.

School Sores Are Hugely Contagious and Difficult to Treat

This is the 3rd time we’ve had it here. D has had it twice, it’s Boo’s first time. This time it’s worse because I HAVE IT TOO.

It’s brought home to me how nasty this thing is, I feel terrible and it hurts.  Those poor children.

It’s horribly contagious, it’s painful and makes you feel pretty ill and is so far from pretty it’s not funny.

Now, I have heard of people getting it in the UK (we’re what you’d call Poms) but nothing like here. It’s vicious, spreads and worsens rapidly in the humidity ripping through schools at an alarming rate. That’s why they call it school sores. Hospitals and drips are a possibility if you don’t start treatment quickly enough.

It, like nits and worms, comes about because hygiene standards in schools are absolutely dire.

Whinging Pom

My reason for this post, other than to have a good whinge about how crap I feel and how much money this is costing me, (there are no free medicines here, not even for kids), is to warn you travelers out there in the tropics. Particularly the ones with children.

If you have any little cut, mozzy bite, or scrape, get some Betadine, antibiotic cream, or tea tree oil, or something, on it straight away and get it covered up. Don’t swim, don’t scratch or pick. If it starts to look nasty get yourself off to the doctors for some antibiotics, school sores are difficult to treat once the infection gets established.   

Wash your hands, all the time, don’t share towels, wash everything, particularly teddy bears, I think Boo’s bear is the root of our problems, he shoves the thing up his nose and rubs it all over his face.

Erythromycin works, usually, (see update at end of post), some doctors give less aggressive antibiotics, and they don’t do much (in our experience). I’m not trying to hand out medical advice, just give you our school sores story.

Quote from my doctor  “You might as well piss on it as give him that”

I have successfully got rid of tiny school sores with antibiotic cream, but once the infection gets established, it’s game over.

This thing is NASTY. The bacteria that cause it hang out in your nose, so stop picking your nose too.

School sores take weeks to heal with antibiotics and antibiotic creams. This one is almost healed.
satellite lesions like that one pop up all around the first  school sore, this one is almost healed

Other Tropical Nasties

Tropical ulcers, hookworm, Dengue fever, we’ve got ’em all here in paradise. My kids have had Giardia, and nits and worms are rife. I just want to warn you, that’s all, to be vigilant. Just because you’re not on the Indian Subcontinent, don’t be blase.

Shiz happens all over the tropics, in Australia too. You may also like to look out for leeches, ticks, and drop bears.

School sores or impetigo lesions need to be covered and kept clean. Dressings need to be changed frequently as treatment is applied.
Scool sores have to be covered and dressings changed at least 3 times a day. It’s expensive.

So, on that happy note, goodnight, I’m off to sleep with my itchy, sore, grumpy 6-year-old. On sheets that I’ve boil washed twice today to decrease the risk of re-infection.

After washing and drying ourselves with fresh single use towels, rubbing off the scabs so that the antibiotic cream can get underneath. It’s an absolute swine, you do not want Impetigo or school sores ever.

Update. Three months later, four courses of Erythromycin, two treatments with nasal Bactroban and one treatment with antibiotic eye ointment and the staphylococcus is still with us.  We no longer have school sores or impetigo, but the staphylococcus is hanging about in my son’s nose.

This is extremely Not Nice. Other treatment we have been trying include Manuka honey, black cumin oil (said to be great for staphylococcus), cinnamon oil, lots of raw garlic and a generally brilliant diet. It didn’t work.

You can find black cumin oil or black seed oil hereSchool Sores or Impetigo, a Horrible Tropical Disease.

School sores or impetigo can be very tough to get rid of, I hope you don’t get it!

Update 2. Everyone in the family has at some time in the last 3 years, had repeat encounters with school sores.  The kids had the very typical nose presentation again and my husband and I have had isolated skin lesions. You can get school sores more than once. However, now we know exactly what it looks and feels like, we can treat it immediately with antibiotic creams and stop the rapid spreading. We spend a lot of time in the tropics and it seems it is very easy to pick up school sores there, particularly from other children.

Finally, we pulled my son out of school to homeschool, and nobody had nits or worms ever again. We had one minor outbreak of school sores in Thailand, but prompt treatment got rid of it almost immediately.

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