Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection, frequently children and infants tend to get it on the face, especially around the nose and mouth, and sometimes on the arms or legs.

The bacterial agent that causes impetigo is the Staphylococcus aureus or it can be the Streptococcus pyogenes.

Complications such as scars, cellulitis and kidney problems can arise from impetigo. Scars are caused by the deeper form of impetigo. Infected skin may also affect the underlying tissues and cause cellulitis. The gravest potential complication of impetigo is post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, a severe kidney disease that occurs following a streptococcal infection in less than 1% of cases, mainly in children.

Most people get this highly infectious disease through physical contact with someone who has it or from sharing the same clothes, bedding, towels, or other objects. That is why children tend to be infected with impetigo the most.

These are certain factors that may contribute to infection:

  • Although any one can have this, it is most common in ages 2 to 6.
  • Crowded Conditions.
  • Warm, humid weather
  • Broken skin
  • Poor hygiene

There are two forms of impetigo, the bullous impetigo and the non-bullous impetigo, and the more serious form the ecthyma. The bullous impetigo is the less common form that causes large blisters on the trunk or diaper areas in the newborn and the younger children.

The non-bullous impetigo, on the other hand, is characteristic of the thick, “honey-colored” crust. The ecthyma is deeper into the skin and causes painful fluid or pus-filled sored that turn into ulcers.

Impetigo starts out as a small cluster of blisters that after a few hours breaks into a red, moist area that oozes or weeps fluid. Impetigo appears mainly on the nose and mouth areas, but also can develop on exposed areas of the arms and legs.

In a few days, there is the formation of a golden or dark-yellow crust resembling grains of brown sugar. The infection may continue to spread at the edges of the infected area or affect other areas of skin.

Call Your Doctor About Impetigo if:

An impetigo infection needs prompt medical attention.

NOTE: Sores associated with impetigo may be mistaken for herpes, a viral infection. See a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.


Impetigo is identified by the dermatologist by its appearance. However, impetigo may be confused with other infections; thus, gram stain or bacterial culture may be obtained.



For non-bullous impetigo a topical antibiotic, such as muciprocin (Bactroban) is applied to the lesion four times a day until the lesion is gone for three days. Bullous impetigo is treated with antibiotics from the macrolides (eryhtromycin, azithromycin, and clarithromycin) and cephalosporins (cephalexin, cefprozil, cefdinir). You may need to soak affected area in warm water or use wet compress to help remove scabs.

How to prevent impetigo:

  • Frequently wash areas of minor skin trauma with soap and water.
  • Avoid overcrowded living conditions.
  • People with recurrent impetigo should have the inside of the nose cultured to determine if they are a carrier of Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Staph carriers should be treated with topical mupirocin (Bactroban) inside the nose.

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