Impetigo is caused by one or both of the following types of bacteria:
These bacteria are normally found on the skin and in the nose. When small cuts, scratches, or insect bites occur, these bacteria can get under the skin. There they can cause infection. Impetigo is often spread from person to person.
Factors that increase your chance for impetigo include:
Age: preschool and school-aged children
Touching a person with impetigo
Touching the clothing, towels, sheets, or other items of a person with impetigo
Poor hygiene, particularly unwashed hands and dirty fingernails
Crowded settings where there is direct person-to-person contact, such as schools and the military
Warm, humid environment
Poor health or weakened immune system
Tendency to have skin problems such as
, or skin allergy
, or other injury or trauma to the skin
Lice infections (like
), which cause scratching
Symptoms of impetigo appear 4-10 days after exposure.
Symptoms may include:
Red spots, sores, or blisters, present on the skin of the face, arms, legs or other parts of the body, that:
Ooze and become covered with a flat, dry, honey-colored crust
May increase in size
Spread, especially if scratched
Swollen lymph nodes, in more serious cases
Normally, impetigo is a fairly mild condition. However, if left untreated, further problems could develop. This can include pain, swelling, spread of infection, discharge of pus, or fever. In rare cases, people whose impetigo is caused by Group A
In some cases, staphylococcal infections (eg,
) may be resistant to these antibiotics. Others options may be needed.
Do not touch or scratch the lesions. The skin should be washed several times a day. Use soap and water or an antibiotic soap. The crusts may be removed by soaking the infected area in warm water for about 15 minutes. Lesions should be covered loosely with gauze, a bandage, or clothing.
Avoiding Spread of the Infection
To help avoid spreading the infection:
Wash your hands thoroughly, especially after touching an infected area of your body.
Avoid contact with newborn babies.
Stay home until 24 hours after the start of treatment.
Do not handle food at home until a minimum of 24 hours after the start of treatment.
If you work in the food service industry, ask your doctor when it is safe for you to return to work.
Prevention of impetigo involves good personal hygiene. The following tips can help:
Bathe daily with soap and water.
Wash your face, hands, and hair regularly.
If caring for someone with impetigo, be sure to wash your hands after each time you touch the person.
Do not share towels, clothes, or sheets. This is more important with a person who has impetigo.
Keep fingernails short and clean.
Change and wash clothing frequently.
Do not let your children play or have close contact with someone who may have impetigo.
Promptly wash wounds, such as cuts, scratches, or insect bites, with soap and water. Consider applying a small amount of antibiotic ointment, and cover the wound with a bandage.
Koning S, van der Wouden JC, Chosidow O, Twynholm M, Singh KP, Scangarella N, Oranje AP. Efficacy and safety of retapamulin ointment as treatment of impetigo: randomized double-blind multicentre placebo-controlled trial.
Br J Dermatol
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a