Get Adobe Flash player

Impetigo

Impetigo 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.

Impetigo is one of the most common skin infections 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?

Impetigo is 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, 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 sores:

  • 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 itchy.
  • They 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 you 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.