How to Recognize Impetigo

Impetigo stems from the streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria, which normally lives on skin without causing a problem. However, when these bacteria enter the epidermis through an insect bite, cut, or scrape, it can cause an infection.

Impetigo is most common in children, though it can occur in adults. People recovering from an upper respiratory infection, skin disorders, or those with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk. Impetigo flare-ups are more common during hot, humid weather.

Impetigo creates red, itchy sores that ooze, pus, and crust over. The sores can occur anywhere on the body, most commonly around the nose and mouth, and they frequently spread to other parts of the body. Bullous impetigo is an itchy but usually painless condition that most often affects very young children. Ecthyma is a more serious kind of impetigo. It goes deeper than the epidermis and can cause painful sores and ulcers, often on the legs and feet.

Impetigo is also contagious, and can be spread through blister fluid and towels. If you or your child has impetigo sores, you should make sure not to share towels or personal care products with anyone. Wash towels and clothing that comes into contact with sores thoroughly or you risk spreading or re-introducing impetigo after treatment. The best defense against impetigo is good skin hygiene, and by making sure to treat minor cuts and scrapes with antibiotic ointment.

Dermatologists can diagnose impetigo visually, and may want to confirm it with a skin culture. Treatment is generally a topical antibiotic cream, though occasionally oral antibiotics are prescribed. Usually it only takes a few days to clear up the infection after treatment. Left untreated it may clear up on its own, but leaving it can lead to dangerous health complications like the kidney infection PSGN, cellulitis, or permanent skin scarring. If you suspect that you or your child may have impetigo, visit your doctor right away.




"Impetigo: Definition" Mayo Clinic. Web. October 5, 2010.

"Impetigo." Pub Med Health: U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. October 5, 2010.