Impetigo appears as red sores that break open easily.

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, staphylococcus bacteria cause more than 90 percent of cases, while streptococcus bacteria cause most of the remainder of impetigo cases. Impetigo infection can occur anywhere on the body but are found most commonly on the face, particularly around the nose and mouth. Impetigo appears as red sores that break open easily, producing honey-colored crusts after breaking open.

The infection most commonly develops when bacteria enters a break in the skin, including scrapes, cuts, and insect bites. Impetigo can also occur as a result of skin irritation related to a runny nose. Because impetigo is so contagious, children can easily spread the infection to other areas of their body by scratching and to other children by touching commonly used surfaces.

Treatment of impetigo

Antibiotics are the primary treatment method for impetigo. These can be applied topically to the skin or taken orally. To determine the type of bacteria that is causing the skin infection, your child’s doctor may order a culture. According to the Mayo Clinic, impetigo can clear on its own within 2-3 weeks, but your child remains contagious until the rash clears or until prescribed antibiotics run out.

It is essential that your child finish the full course of antibiotics, even if all of the sores have healed. This will help prevent the infection from reoccurring and reduce the likelihood of antibiotic resistance. Because impetigo is highly contagious, children should not attend school or play contact sports until they have been taking an oral antibiotic for at least one day.

Follow these tips to treat sores caused by impetigo and prevent the spread to others:

  • Use soap and water to clean the affected areas.
  • Loosely cover the sores to allow for air to flow through.
  • To prevent your child from scratching sores, keep them covered until they heal completely.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after treating sores.
  • Do not share towels or washcloths.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, January 2019

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Impetigo.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Impetigo Care.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Impetigo.


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