Megan Shep­pard

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Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health -

My nine-year-old son has im­petigo, with a num­ber of large scabs on his legs. He has picked at the scabs and it looks awful. He has just started on a course of an­tibi­otics to help clear the in­fec­tion. What else can we do to help heal this and min­imise the scar­ring?

>> Im­petigo is a highly in­fec­tious skin con­di­tion that is caused by ei­ther sta­phy­lo­coc­cus or strep­to­coc­cus bac­te­ria, which are no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult to get on top of. It be­gins as small blis­ters, which then break open to form the weep­ing sores, which are highly in­fec­tious.

It is dif­fi­cult with young chil­dren, but you re­ally do need to stress the fact that he will spread the sores by touch­ing or pick­ing at them. You may even need to find some cot­ton gloves (socks work in a pinch) for him to wear to bed to min­imise any scratch­ing or pick­ing in his sleep.

There might be some com­fort in know­ing that the sores are not caused in the first place by be­ing ‘dirty’ or hav­ing poor hy­giene — the in­fec­tion can take hold once the skin has been bro­ken by an in­sect bite, in­jury, or even a dose of sun­burn.

Now that he has the in­fec­tion, the highly con­ta­gious fluid in the blis­ters and sores will trans­mit the bac­te­rial in­fec­tion via di­rect con­tact, or even through tow­els, linen, and cloth­ing — so wash­ing these items daily in a sep­a­rate hot wash is key to min­imis­ing the risk of spread­ing the in­fec­tion fur­ther.

When­ever sta­phy­lo­coc­cus or strep­to­coc­cus are re­spon­si­ble for any in­fec­tion, my first rem­edy of choice is ac­tive manuka honey from the NZ na­tive lep­tosper­mum sco­par­ium shrub. For larger scabs and ar­eas of im­petigo where a ban­dage is prac­ti­cal, ap­ply ac­tive manuka honey to the af­fected area and cover with a gauze ban­dage. Change this dress­ing at least once daily. If there are trick­ier spots where it is im­prac­ti­cal to ap­ply a ban­dage use manuka es­sen­tial oil. Manuka oil is ac­tive against a wide range of mi­cro-or­gan­isms re­spon­si­ble for skin in­fec­tion, and it is 15 times more ef­fec­tive than tea tree against sta­phy­lo­coc­cus and strep­to­coc­cus in­fec­tions. De­spite the strong ac­tion of this oil, it is gen­tle enough to use neat on even the most sen­si­tive of skins and will help to prevent scar­ring. Manuka oil is avail­able from iv­ing­na­ture.com.

Sup­port­ing his im­mune sys­tem is very im­por­tant. Sam­bu­col, made us­ing black el­der­berry (sam­bu­cus ni­gra), have a spe­cific Im­munoForte prod­uct de­vel­oped to strengthen im­mune func­tion which is suit­able for ages four and over.

I have ex­tremely sweaty feet. They have been this way since I was a teenager, and I am now in my 50s and it seems to be get­ting worse. Now I have been told that I also have a fun­gal in­fec­tion, which doesn’t help with the smell. What can I do to fix this prob­lem? >> The skin is one of the or­gans of elim­i­na­tion, with some nat­u­ral medicine prac­ti­tion­ers re­fer­ring to the skin as be­ing the ‘third kid­ney’. Sweat­ing more than nor­mal is usu­ally con­sid­ered to be an in­di­ca­tion that the kid­neys are over­bur­dened.

Tak­ing a herb or herbal com­bi­na­tion to sup­port the kid­neys may help to re­duce the sweat­ing. Of­ten the in­tes­tine and colon also ben­e­fit from a cleanse if the feet are very sweaty, or if you are a ‘hot sleeper’.

The tis­sue salt sil­ica is fre­quently rec­om­mended to help treat ex­cess damp­ness, which might help to cre­ate a less ideal en­vi­ron­ment for fun­gal growth. Tea tree oil has long been used to help deal with fun­gal in­fec­tion of nails and feet.

Soak­ing your feet at the end of the day may also help. The tan­nins in black tea work against bac­te­rial and fun­gal growth — try adding five black teabags to four cups of hot wa­ter, and soak your feet for 20 to 30 min­utes. To help im­prove the odour, try com­bin­ing equal parts of corn­flour, bak­ing soda, and ar­row­root pow­der with a few drops of cy­press, pep­per­mint, rose­mary, or tea tree oil. Pour the pow­der into a plas­tic con­tainer, poke holes in the lid, and shake into your shoes be­fore and af­ter you wear them.

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