Impetigo Symptoms and Treatments

Medically Reviewed on 4/7/2022

What are the symptoms of impetigo?

Impetigo is a contagious skin infection that is caused by bacteria.
Impetigo is a contagious skin infection that is caused by bacteria.

Impetigo is a mild infection and can affect any part of the body. Mostly, it affects the nose and mouth or arms or legs.

Symptoms include

  • Red, itchy sores
  • Leaks pus for a few days
  • A yellow-colored scab formed over the sores

There are three types of impetigo

  • Nonbullous impetigo: This is the most common form of impetigo caused by Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria. It begins as small red papules that are similar to those of insect bites. These papules enlarge to small blisters and then to pustules that tend to break and form a golden crust. It takes about one week to develop. Sores are painless but itchy.
  • Bullous impetigo: This type of impetigo is primarily seen in children and is caused due to S. aureus bacteria. It mainly affects the trunk and is characterized by the formation of blisters (bullae) with a clear yellow liquid, which later turns darker and turbid. Symptoms of fever and swollen glands may be observed with this type of impetigo.
  • Ecthyma: This is characterized by a yellow, punched-out rash that extends deep through the skin. The rash is similar to impetigo and is a severe form of impetigo.

Call the doctor immediately, if you observe these

  • Sores or rash that becomes more uncomfortable
  • In case of ecthyma

What is impetigo?

Impetigo is a contagious superficial bacterial infection of the skin. The two types of bacteria that cause impetigo are Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, and they primarily infect children aged two to five years old. The bacteria infect the skin causing contagious sores. In earlier days, impetigo was known as “impetigo contageosum.”


Who is at risk for getting impetigo?

Individuals associated with the following factors may be at high risk of contracting impetigo

  • Age between two to five years
  • Hot and humid climate or wet and dry seasons
  • Scabies infection
  • Close contact with the infected person
  • Sharing an infected person’s clothes, towel, bedding or other objects
  • Engaged in sports such as wrestling
  • Skin problems such as eczema, insect bites or fungal infections
  • Suppressed immunity

How is impetigo diagnosed?

The physician diagnoses impetigo based on the clinical appearance of the sores. Lab tests are usually not needed. A gram stain and culture of pus may be done to identify the strain of bacteria. Serologic testing may be recommended to identify the complications of impetigo.



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How do you get rid of impetigo? 

It is recommended to get rid of impetigo as early as possible to prevent the spread of the infection.

Impetigo is a mild infection and it is treatable. Mostly, topical and oral antibiotics are used for treatment. The physician may recommend Bactroban (mupirocin) and Altabax (retapamulin) for topical use. 

Physicians may recommend Bactrim (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole) to treat streptococcal infections and clindamycin or doxycycline to treat staphylococcus infections.

How do you prevent impetigo from spreading?

Preventing impetigo is easy if you takes care of the following things:

  • Avoid scratching or touching the sores
  • Do not share personal items with anyone and avoid using other’s items
  • Avoid contact with newborn babies
  • Cover the sores to avoid spreading
  • Clean all wounds and cuts with soap and water
  • Avoid spending time in hot pools and swimming pools in case of open wounds and infections
  • Wash the clothes of an infected person daily
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable
  • Dispose of used tissues in a waste bin
  • Cough or sneeze into the upper sleeve or elbow

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Medically Reviewed on 4/7/2022
Medscape Medical Reference