Impetigo (im-puh-TIE-go) is a highly contagious skin infection that mainly affects infants and children. Although anyone can develop impetigo, children ages 2 to 6 years and infants are most often infected. In adults, impetigo is usually the result of injury to the skin often by another dermatological condition such as dermatitis.
Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and streptococcus pyogenes (strep) are the two types of bacteria that cause impetigo. Both types of bacteria can live harmlessly on your skin until they enter through a cut or other wound and cause an infection.
Children are especially susceptible to infections because their immune systems are still developing. And because staph and strep bacteria flourish wherever groups of people are in close contact, impetigo spreads easily in schools and child care settings. Also, children are commonly infected through a cut, scrape or insect bite but they can also develop impetigo without having any notable damage to the skin.
Impetigo usually appears as red sores on the face, especially around a child's nose and mouth. Although it commonly occurs when bacteria enter the skin through cuts or insect bites, it can also develop in skin that's perfectly healthy.
Impetigo is seldom serious and usually clears on its own in two to three weeks. But because impetigo can sometimes lead to complications, your child's doctor may choose to treat impetigo with an antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics. Your child can usually return to school or a child care setting as soon as he or she isn't contagious (often within 24 hours of starting antibiotic therapy).
There are three type of impetigo. Those types include impetigo contagiosa, bullous impetigo and ecthyma.
The most common form of impetigo is impetigo contagiosa which usually starts as a red sore on your child's face (most often around the nose and mouth). The sore ruptures quickly, oozing either fluid or pus that forms a honey-colored crust. Eventually the crust disappears, leaving a red mark that heals without scarring. The sores may be itchy but they aren't painful.