Strategies for dealing with school sores

Published on Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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Although the name would have you believe otherwise, school sores do happen in early childhood services, and can spread like wildfire due to the close physical proximity of children.

School sores, or impetigo, is a contagious infection on the top layer of skin, which usually presents as a small crop of blisters or sores, most commonly around the nose, mouth, arms or legs. The infection usually enters the body through a break in the skin such as through a graze, a mozzy bite or a cut.

Impetigo is usually caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, better known as “golden staph”. The other type of bacteria that can cause school sores is Streptococcus pyogenes, commonly known as “strep”. Spyogenes can cause other infections such as tonsillitis and pharyngitis.

How can I tell if a child has school sores?

Young children are often covered in scrapes and cuts, however school sores do look different to the usual skin injuries observable on children. 

As described above school sores usually start out as a cluster of blisters.  The normal progression for this infection sees the blisters pop and weep, leaving a patch of irritated and enflamed red skin. These blisters dry out forming golden coloured scabs, which become itchy and grow larger each day.  

Impetigo is spread through contact with fluid from the blisters or from scratching around the sore. Once a child touches any part of the sore it can be spread to another child or adult through touch or via shared surfaces such as chairs, toys, bedding or eating equipment such as cups.

Children can spread it to other parts of their own body by touching the blister fluid and then putting their hands somewhere else, such as on their face.

Children can pass on the infection as long as there is fluid weeping from their sores, and they are no longer infectious when the sores have healed or 24 hours after starting an antibiotic treatment.

The good news is that despite being highly contagious impetigo is unlikely to cause major harm to children and usually clears up without causing scars.

What is the recommended exclusion period for children in early learning services?

Although it’s not serious, impetigo is very infectious and can be transmitted easily between children. For this reason children with active weeping sores should be excluded from care until the sores have healed or for 24 hours after they have started taking an antibiotic treatment.

However, if a child can be prevented from touching and scratching their sores through the application of a bandage and clothing, Regional Public Health suggests that they can return to their early childhood centre.

To this end, early childhood staff should ask parents to keep their child at home until the sores have healed up or until a child is 24 hours into a course of antibiotics.

In addition, staff should maintain good hand hygiene and thoroughly wash and dry their hands during an outbreak of impetigo.


Regional Public Health Fact Sheet – Impetigo

The Conversation What are school sores and how do you get rid of them?

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