Impetigo is a skin infection that is common in children. This infection is caused by a bacteria and can be highly contagious. Treatment is recommended to prevent the bacteria from causing a more serious infection by going deeper into the skin. It also reduces the risk of infecting others.
At first, a person with impetigo will usually develop small, reddish blister-like sores on the skin. These sores sometimes ooze and cause itching. Eventually, they tend to form a yellow or gold crust. The sores usually develop on the face, trunk, arms or legs.
Causes and triggers
The infection develops when bacteria enter the body, often through a small skin injury. It spreads easily through contact with an infected sore or a contaminated object (e.g., bed linen, towel, clothing). Impetigo appears 7 to 10 days after exposure.
Certain factors may also contribute to the spread or development of the infection:
- Skin conditions (e.g., eczema, scrape)
- Scratching, as it can cause the infection to spread on the skin
- A warm, humid environment
- Living in crowded conditions, as the infection spreads easily among people in close contact
Treatment varies depending on the severity of the infection. Oftentimes, the infection is limited to the skin's surface and can be successfully managed with an antibiotic cream. A deeper or more extensive infection may require antibiotics taken by mouth.
The person is contagious until all the crusts have healed or at least 24 to 48 hours after starting antibiotics.
With adequate treatment, the infection rarely lasts more than 7 days.
To help prevent impetigo from spreading to others:
- Gently wash the affected areas with soap and water then cover with gauze
- Wash the infected person's clothing daily and do not share them with anyone else
- Cut the infected person's nails to prevent damage from scratching
- Wash hands frequently
- Keep the infected person at home until they are no longer contagious
When should I see a healthcare professional?
See your healthcare professional if:
- You or your child are showing symptoms of impetigo
- You have already seen a healthcare provider, but you or your child do not seem to be improving despite treatment