Infectious skin conditions

There are a few common infectious skin conditions that occur in places where lots of people congregate, such as in schools and colleges, and these can spread quickly. Be aware of the signs and symptoms so you can get treatment as soon as possible if necessary.

Caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin, scabies is highly contagious (infectious) and, while it is not a serious disease, it is important to get treatment quickly. The main symptoms are intense itching, especially at night, and a rash (tiny red spots). If you have scabies, everyone in your household will need to be treated even if they don’t have any symptoms. Scabies is passed from person to person by close bodily contact – holding hands, hugging, etc. You can find more information about scabies here.

This common, highly infectious skin condition can occur when the skin becomes infected with a certain type of bacteria, usually through a cut or insect bite or sometimes through skin damaged by head lice, scabies (see above) or eczema. The symptoms are sores and blisters that crust over, usually on the face and limbs. These aren’t painful but they can be itchy. Impetigo is passed around through bodily contact and sharing towels and flannels, so it is important to practise good hygiene if you are affected:  wash your hands frequently, change towels and bedding frequently, and wash your towels and bedding at high temperatures. You should also seek medical advice. Impetigo isn’t usually serious and it does clear up on its own but your GP will prescribe medication to help it clear up more quickly. More information about impetigo can be found here.

Closely related to athlete’s foot, ringworm is a fungal skin infection (nothing to do with worms!) that causes a scaly circular rash a few centimetres wide. It is contagious and passes easily between people, pets and inanimate objects like hairbrushes. See your GP as soon as possible if you think you may have ringworm. Treatment is usually an anti-fungal cream that needs to be applied to the affected areas for a few weeks, even after the rash has disappeared. You can find more information about ringworm here.