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Home :: Impetigo

Impetigo - Symptoms And Treatment

An infectious, contagious, common bacterial skin infection that affects the superficial layers of the skin. This is more common in athletes and those who participate in vigorous physical activity that causes excessive sweating.

It is most common in children and is contagious. Impetigo forms round, crusted, oozing spots that grow larger day by day. The hands and face are the favorite locations for impetigo, but it often appears on other parts of the body.


Staphylococci or streptococci bacteria growing in the upper skin layers. The following conditions make a person more susceptible to impetigo infections:

  • Increased perspiration from physical exertion.
  • Crowded or unsanitary conditions, such as locker rooms, or sharing of towels.
  • Constant friction with clothing and athletic equipment.
  • Fair complexion.
  • Skin that is sensitive to sun and irritants, such as soap and makeup.
  • Warm, moist weather.
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Recent illness that has lowered resistance.

Signs and symptoms

  • A red rash with many small blisters. Some blisters contain pus, and yellow crusts form when they break. The blisters don't hurt, but they may itch.
  • Slight fever (sometimes).


Diagnosis is based primarily on the appearance of the skin lesion. A culture of the skin or mucosal lesion usually grows streptococcus or staphylococcus.


To treat impetigo, your doctor will recommend gently washing the affected areas with mild soap and water. Infection is treated with topical antibiotics, while oral or intravenous antibiotics are used for more serious and widespread infections. Impetigo can be cured completely, with no lasting effects, if treated promptly.


Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Oral antibiotics, such as dicloxacillin or erythromycin. To avoid complications, take antibiotics for 10 days even if symptoms disappear.
  • Antibiotic ointments for very small areas of infection. Rub antibiotic ointment into the lesions for 60 seconds at least 4 times a day. If your doctor has not prescribed an ointment, you may use a non-prescription ointment containing neomycin and bacitracin.

Home Treatment

  • Follow the suggestions listed under How to Prevent.
  • Scrub lesions with gauze and antiseptic soap. Break any pustules. Remove all crusts, and expose and cleanse all lesions. If crusts are difficult to remove, soak them in warm soapy water and scrub gently.
  • Cover impetigo sores with gauze and tape to keep hands away from them.
  • Treat new lesions the same way, even if you are not sure they are impetigo.
  • Separate and boil bed linen, towels, clothes and other items that have touched sores.
  • Men should shave around sores on the face, not over them. Use an aerosol shaving cream and change razor blades each day. Don't use a shaving brush-it may harbor germs.
  • Bathe daily with soap and water.
  • Keep fingernails short. Don't scratch impetigo blisters.
  • If there is an outbreak in the team or family, urge all members to use antibacterial soap.
  • Use separate towels for each person, or substitute paper towels temporarily.
  • Impetigo is contagious, so avoid skin contact with drainage from impetigo lesions.

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Disclaimer: website is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. Always take the advice of professional health care for specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment. We will not be liable for any complications, or other medical accidents arising from the use of any information on this web site. Please note that medical information is constantly changing. Therefore some information may be out of date.