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6-year-old develops bacterial skin infection after swimming at beach

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- A Virginia mother says her child has a severe case of impetigo after swimming last weekend.

Nicole Sullivan said her daughter, 6-year-old Bella, had a scratch on her face when she went swimming. Sullivan said she progressively started to develop some redness and swelling. By Tuesday, it turned into a painful, itchy infection.

"I thought maybe it was just poison ivy so I put some caladryl lotion on it and some Benadryl," she said. "Tuesday morning, she woke up and both eyes were completely closed shut and she was completely swollen, her face, her neck, her arms also."

When she took her to the doctor, Sullivan said Bella was diagnosed with impetigo because of the bacteria from the water getting inside the cut.

According to the Mayo Clinic, impetigo is common in infants and children and usually appears as red sores on the face, especially around the child's mouth.

Environmental Health Manager for the Peninsula District Gary Hagy said the water levels tested below the standard on June 9, so there was no advisory when Bella went swimming.

There was a swimming advisory because of higher than acceptable levels of bacteria in the water on June 8, but it was lifted the next day. Hagy said the bacteria can include human waste.

Unless there is an advisory, they usually test the water once a week on Tuesdays. He said surface water can fluctuate often; it's never constant and there is always going to be a risk.

He recommends to not submerse an open cut in the water or go into the water after a heavy rainfall for at least 24 to 48 hours.

There have been three swimming advisories since May 25.

Hagy said they have been working with city officials, including public works, to determine the cause of the high bacteria levels but they have not found a reason so far.

"If you plan to take your child to the beach, see if they have any openings in their skin, hold off on going to the beach perhaps if you do see anything like that or cover them up really well," Sullivan said. "I wouldn't want anything like that to happen to other kids, it's very painful."