Impetigo - Topic Overview
What is impetigo?
Impetigo (say "im-puh-TY-go") is a bacterial skin infection. It causes
red sores that can break open, ooze fluid, and develop a yellow-brown crust.
These sores can occur anywhere on the body but most often appear around the
mouth and nose.
See a picture of
Impetigo is one of the most
common skin infections in children. It can occur in adults but is seen far more
often in children. Impetigo is contagious and can be spread to others through
close contact or by sharing towels, sheets, clothing, toys, or other items.
Scratching can also spread the sores to other parts of the body.
What causes impetigo?
caused by one of two kinds of bacteria—strep (streptococcus) or staph
(staphylococcus). Often these bacteria enter the body when the skin has already
been irritated or injured because of other skin problems such as
eczema, poison ivy, insect bites, burns,
or cuts. Children may get impetigo after they have had a cold or allergies that
have made the skin under the nose raw. But impetigo can also develop in
completely healthy skin.
What are the symptoms?
You or your child may have impetigo if you have
- On the skin, especially around the nose or
mouth. The sores begin as small red spots, then change to blisters that
eventually break open. The sores are typically not painful, but they may be
- That ooze fluid and look crusty. Sores often look like they
have been coated with honey or brown sugar.
- That increase in size
and number. Sores may be as small as a pimple or larger than a coin.
How is impetigo diagnosed?
Your doctor can usually diagnose impetigo just by looking at your or your
child's skin. Sometimes your doctor will gently remove a small piece of a sore
to send to a lab to identify the bacteria. If you or your child has
other signs of illness, your doctor may order blood or urine tests.
How is it treated?
antibiotics. For cases of mild impetigo, a doctor will
prescribe an antibiotic ointment or cream to put on the sores. For cases of
more serious impetigo, a doctor may also prescribe antibiotic pills.