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Impetigo - Topic Overview

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How is it treated?

Impetigo is treated with 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.

After 3 days of treatment, you or your child should begin to get better. A child can usually return to school or daycare after 24 hours of treatment.1 If you apply the ointment or take the pills exactly as prescribed, most sores will be completely healed in 1 week.

At home, you should gently wash the sores with soap and water before you apply the medicine. If the sores are crusty, soak them in warm water for 15 minutes, scrub the crusts with a washcloth to remove them, and pat the sores dry. Do not share washcloths, towels, pillows, sheets, or clothes with others. And be sure to wash these items in hot water before you use them again.

Try not to scratch the sores, because scratching can spread the infection to other parts of the body. You can help prevent scratching by keeping your child's fingernails short and covering sores with gauze or bandages.

Call your doctor if an impetigo infection does not improve after 3 or 4 days or if you notice any signs that the infection is getting worse such as fever, increased pain, swelling, warmth, redness, or pus.

How can impetigo be prevented?

If you know someone who has impetigo, try to avoid close contact with that person until his or her infection has gone away. You should also avoid sharing towels, pillows, sheets, clothes, toys, or other items with an infected person. If possible, wash all shared items in hot water before you use them again.

If you or your child has impetigo, scratching the sores can spread the infection to other areas of your body and to other people. Keep the sores covered to help you or your child resist scratching them. Wash your or your child's hands with soap to help prevent spreading the infection.

If your child has a cut or insect bite, covering it with antibiotic ointment or cream can help prevent impetigo.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 25, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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