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Get your Skin Infections Treated in NYC by World-Renowned Dermatologist, Debra Jaliman, MD

Skin issues and skin infections are very common. They are caused by different types of microorganisms. Bacterial infections can cause cellulitis, viral infections cause shingles, fungal infections cause athletes' foot and parasitic ones cause scabies. Each infection has unique traits and requires different strategies. While many can be prevented, certain conditions may require a consultation with a dermatologist to address them effectively.

Skin infections can usually be prevented by avoiding contact with an infected person or even an object. The various germs will cause varied skin disorders. 

Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections such as cellulitis, impetigo, and staph infections are caused by different strains of bacteria. Cellulitis affects the deeper layers of the skin and is often accompanied by redness, swelling warmth, and tenderness. If left untreated, it can spread to the lymph nodes or bloodstream. On the other hand, impetigo is more common in children and appears as yellowish crusty sores, while staph infections are often characterized by boils or abscesses.

Boils and Carbuncles

Bacteria can cause an outbreak of boils and red lumps that are tender to the touch and are caused by an infected hair follicle. If you leave a boil alone, it will usually burst in about two weeks. You can apply hot, wet compresses to the boil every few hours to relieve pain and encourage bursting. Avoid squeezing or popping a boil, as it will spread the infection. A cluster of boils is called a carbuncle. The bacterial organisms Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes cause these infections. These are both bacteria and require antibiotics. These infections are highly contagious and can spread to other areas of your body as well as to anyone you come into contact with.


An abscess is a condition where pus accumulates in the body's tissues. Signs of abscesses include redness, swelling, pain, and warmth when touched. A bacterial infection causes it. To identify the specific bacteria responsible for the infection, a skin culture is taken after draining the pus. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat bacterial infections. In some cases, methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA) is identified. Individuals who use intravenous drugs have a high risk of developing these skin conditions.


Cellulitis is a bacterial soft tissue infection that can develop on any site on the skin. If there is an injury, wound, cut, or break in the skin, then bacteria can enter and cause the infection. The main culprits are Streptococcus and Staphylococcus bacteria, resulting in inflammation, redness, swelling, and painful, warm skin. Treatment typically involves oral antibiotic medication, but severe cases may necessitate intravenous antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading to the lymph nodes, bloodstream, or even the bone, leading to osteomyelitis. There are more serious Staphylococcus aureus infections called methicillin-resistant (MRSA) Staphylococcus infections, that are increasing.


Impetigo, a bacterial skin infection, is characterized by small blisters with yellow crusts that spread easily through breaks or cuts in the skin. Wash the affected area several times a day with soap and water, or apply hydrogen peroxide to remove the crusts effectively. Doctors usually prescribe an antibiotic ointment or prescription drugs to treat this infection.


Viruses cause warts in the HPV family. They are skin-colored, rough bumps that are usually seen on the hands and fingers. Children and teenagers get them most often, but they can also be seen in adults. They spread from breaks in the skin and open wounds. They are also spread in gyms and skin-to-skin contact through activities.

Fungal Skin Infections

Fungal disease can lead to ringworms, characterized by red, scaly, circular patches. This is not serious and can be treated easily. "Athlete's foot" is a bothersome and sometimes painful fungus infection that occurs between the toes and the skin and becomes red, itchy, cracked, and flaky with some tenderness. Studies show that there is a moisture buildup that encourages the growth of fungi. Keeping the affected area clean and dry is crucial for effective management. Treatment usually involves applying antifungal topical medicine to the feet and wearing cotton socks, although antifungal pills may be necessary in some cases.

Herpes Simplex

This virus causes fluid-filled blisters that occur on a red base and are often painful and tender. It is very contagious. It requires antiviral medication, usually by mouth.

Molluscum contagiosum

This condition is caused by a virus that is a member of the pox virus family. It is usually seen in children and is very contagious. It is caused when a child comes into contact with a skin growth or an object that has the virus on it. It looks like small white bumps on the skin surface. It is usually treated by cryotherapy, which involves freezing the bumps off. This is a safe and effective method of treatment. Other methods include scraping the bumps off, using medication, or using acids.


The varicella-zoster virus, responsible for chickenpox, can remain dormant in the body after recovery, leading to shingles when reactivated due to a weakened immune system. Patients on certain medications like chemotherapy or steroids or those who have certain cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV are particularly prone to shingles. The rashes appear as blisters and little bumps that occur with pain and a tingling sensation on one side of your face or body. This rash requires immediate medical attention by a dermatologist so that treatments with prescription antiviral medication can be prescribed. It can take 2 to 4 weeks for the blisters and bumps to heal. The pain from shingles can last 2 to 4 weeks, but some people have the potential for pain for many months, known as postherpetic neuralgia. Vaccination with Shingrix is recommended to prevent shingles outbreaks, according to current research. 

Understanding these distinct characteristics of bacterial, fungal, and viral skin infections is essential for identifying symptoms early and seeking appropriate treatment. A proactive approach to addressing these infections can go a long way to managing their impact on your skin health.

Recognizing symptoms of skin infections

Skin infections can be a painful and distressing experience, but knowing what to look for can help you identify the problem early. Some common signs of skin infections include rashes, swelling, redness, pain, and itching. These are indications that the skin has been breached by germs and your body is fighting back.

When your body is dealing with a more serious infection, you might also experience other symptoms like fever, chills, or fatigue. These are signs that the infection may be spreading beyond your skin and into your bloodstream. This is called a systemic or generalized response, which means that the infection has gone beyond the surface, and is affecting your whole body. If you notice the symptoms alongside any infection, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.

Head Lice

Head lice are transmitted through direct contact with an infected person. These lice can survive for up to 48 hours without a human host. To eliminate them, it is necessary to immerse your brush in boiling water. Use medication to kill both the lice and their eggs on your scalp. Otherwise, items can be sealed in an airtight plastic bag after exposure to someone with lice. You need to use medication to kill the lice as well as the eggs. The eggs hatch within 1–2 weeks.


Scabies are parasites, a skin condition caused by mites that results in intense itching, particularly at night. It manifests as small pink bumps or blisters, commonly found in skin folds or between fingers. Individuals may experience the sensation of a foreign creature moving on their skin. This highly contagious condition can persist on clothing or mattresses and is challenging to diagnose. It is treated with a prescription cream. Failure to treat scabies can lead to complications and the development of skin sores, irritation, and dermatitis.

Infected Eczema

Individuals may experience open wounds on their arms, legs, neck, or other areas affected by eczema, which can result from scratching. These wounds may ooze fluid or form crusts with brown or yellow discoloration. They can appear anywhere on the body. Early intervention and management by a doctor is crucial to treating these wounds using topical antibiotic ointments, creams, or antibiotics by mouth. Failure to do so may lead to severe complications such as sepsis, accompanied by symptoms like chills and fever, necessitating treatment in a hospital.


Candida albicans, which is a yeast, typically causes this infection. Usually, it appears as a red rash under the breasts or in the skin folds, due to increased moisture accumulation. Obesity is a risk factor due to more skin folds. Maintaining dry skin is crucial to preventing this infection, which can also affect nails. Proper hygiene and skin care are essential. Mild products should be used to cleanse and moisturize. Diabetes can increase the risk of this infection by compromising the immune system.


Inflammation and infection of the hair follicles are caused by bacteria. They appear as small white-headed bumps around the hair follicles, called folliculitis. This condition is seen in men's beards as well as on the chest, back, and legs. Shaving is a contributing factor. Dr Jaliman provides recommendations for safe shaving to prevent these infections. Treatment options include topical antibiotics or oral antibiotics.

Necrotizing Fasciitis

This is an example of a very serious skin infection that needs to be treated in a hospital. It is also called flesh-eating disease and is a bacterial infection. The symptoms include red or purple skin in the affected area and severe pain, fever, and vomiting. This type of infection spreads very suddenly and has serious health complications. Risk factors include poor immune function such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, IV drug use, alcoholism and peripheral artery disease. It is uncommon that the incidence is so low. It is treated with a combination of intravenous antibiotics as well as surgery to remove the infected tissue. Unfortunately, there is a high death rate associated with this disease process.

Preventative methods for skin infection

Preventing skin infections involves incorporating important choices and healthy habits into your daily routine. This can significantly reduce the risk of developing a skin infection. So let's explore some practical steps you can take to keep your skin healthy and infection-free.

Keeping the skin clean and dry is one of the most important steps in preventing skin infections. Bacteria and fungi thrive in warm, moist environments. Therefore, regular showers are essential, especially after sweating or being physically active. Pat your skin dry thoroughly after showering, paying extra attention to areas prone to moisture buildup, like between the toes and under the arms. It's also vital to change your towels frequently and to change out of damp clothing promptly.

Another important preventive measure is regularly washing hands. Our hands come into contact with countless surfaces throughout the day, so it's easy for germs to accumulate. Regular handwashing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds helps eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause skin infections. It's crucial to wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom, and after touching shared items in public places.

Avoid sharing personal items like towels and razors. These items can easily harbor bacteria and fungi, increasing the risk of transmitting infections between individuals. It's best to use separate towels, razors, and other personal items to minimize the chance of spreading germs.

In addition to personal hygiene practices, wearing protective footwear in communal areas serves as an effective barrier against fungal infections such as athletes' foot. These areas commonly contain moisture and can harbor infectious agents.

By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, you can significantly reduce the risk of developing skin infections and maintain healthy skin. Taking proactive measures towards prevention not only protects your skin but also your overall health.

Can certain factors or underlying health conditions increase the risk of developing a skin infection?

Certain lifestyle factors and other underlying health conditions can increase the risk of developing a skin infection. Poor hygiene practices, such as not washing hands regularly or sharing personal items, can expose the skin to harmful bacteria. Chronic conditions like diabetes, poor circulation, or a weakened immune system can also impair the body's ability to fight off infection. According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, individuals with diabetes are five times more likely to develop skin infections compared to those without.

What are the different types of skin infections, and how are they treated?

There are various types of skin infections, including bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Treatment depends on the specific infection but can involve topical or oral medications, anti-fungal creams or solutions, antibiotics, antiviral drugs, or a combination of these. For instance, according to a study by the American Academy of Dermatology, about 80% of impetigo cases can be successfully treated with topical antibiotics alone. It is crucial to consult a board-certified dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan.

When is it necessary to seek medical attention for a skin infection?

It is necessary to seek medical attention for a skin infection when symptoms first appear when there is excessive pain, swelling, or redness when the infection spreads rapidly, or when there are signs of a systemic illness such as fever and fatigue. Statistics indicate that delayed treatment of skin infections can lead to complications, including cellulitis and abscess formation. They can even lead to life-threatening conditions like sepsis. Therefore, it is crucial not to ignore concerning signs and to consult with a dermatologist promptly.

How can skin infections be prevented?

Skin infections can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing, avoiding contact with others who are infected or have contaminated surfaces, and keeping the skin clean and dry. It is also important to practice safe behaviors like using condoms during sexual activity to prevent sexually transmitted infections that can affect the skin. According to advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular handwashing alone can reduce the risk of infection by 30 to 50% in the United States.

Whatever your skin infection or skin condition, Dr. Jaliman will take a complete medical history, drain the pus if necessary, and take a sample to make a diagnosis. She will answer all of your questions and discuss risk factors to help with the prevention of future infections.

Call us at 212-517-8855 to schedule a consultation with board-certified dermatologist, Debra Jaliman, MD, at her Manhattan, New York City, office for information and treatment of your skin infections.