Impetigo (say "im-puh-TY-go") is a bacterial skin infection. It causes
red sores that can break open, ooze fluid, and develop a yellow-brown crust.
These sores can occur anywhere on the body.
is one of the most
common skin infections in children. It can occur in adults but is seen far more
often in children. Impetigo is contagious and can be spread to others through
close contact or by sharing towels, sheets, clothing, toys, or other items.
Scratching can also spread the sores to other parts of the body.
caused by one of two kinds of bacteria—strep (streptococcus) or staph
(staphylococcus). Often these bacteria enter the body when the skin has already
been irritated or injured because of other skin problems such as
eczema, poison ivy, insect bites, burns,
or cuts. Children may get impetigo after they have had a cold or allergies that
have made the skin under the nose raw. But impetigo can also develop in
completely healthy skin.
You or your child may have impetigo if you have
Your doctor can usually diagnose impetigo just by looking at your or your
child's skin. Sometimes your doctor will gently remove a small piece of a sore
to send to a lab to identify the bacteria. If you or your child has
other signs of illness, your doctor may order blood or urine tests.
antibiotics. For cases of mild impetigo, a doctor will
prescribe an antibiotic ointment or cream to put on the sores. For cases of
more serious impetigo, a doctor may also prescribe antibiotic pills.
A child can usually
return to school or daycare after 24 hours of
treatment. If you apply the ointment or take the pills exactly as prescribed,
most sores will be completely healed in 1 week.
At home, gently wash the sores with clean water each day. If crusts form, your doctor may advise you to soften or remove the crusts. You can do this by soaking them in warm water and patting them dry. This can help the cream or ointment work better.
After you touch the area, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Try not to
scratch the sores, because scratching can spread the infection to other parts of
the body. You can help prevent scratching by keeping your child's fingernails
short. You can cover the sores with a loose bandage. The
sores need air to heal.
Call your doctor
if you or your child do not get better as expected or if you notice
any signs that the infection is getting worse such as fever, increased pain,
swelling, warmth, redness, or pus.
If you know someone who has
impetigo, try to avoid close contact with that person until his or her
infection has gone away. Do not share towels, sheets, or clothes until the infection is gone. Wash anything that may have touched the infected area.
If you or
your child has impetigo, scratching the sores can spread the infection to other
areas of your body and to other people. Wash your or your child's hands with
soap to help prevent spreading the infection.
Other Works Consulted
Cole C, Gazewood J (2007). Diagnosis and treatment of impetigo. American Family Physician, 75(6): 859–864.
Craft N (2012). Superficial cutaneous infections and pyodermas. In LA Goldman et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2128–2147. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Green P (2014). Skin disorders: Bacterial skin infections. In J Gray, ed., Therapeutic Choices. Ottawa: Canadian Pharmacists Association. https://www.e-therapeutics.ca/tc.showChapter.action?documentId=c0072. Accessed August 28, 2014.
Habif TP (2010). Bacterial infections. In Clinical Dermatology, A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 335–381. Edinburgh: Mosby Elsevier.
Morelli JG (2011). Cutaneous bacterial infections. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 2299–2308. Philadelphia: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSusan C. Kim, MD - PediatricsBrian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Current as ofJuly 26, 2016
Current as of:
July 26, 2016
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
& Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
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