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Impetigo is a common skin infection that primarily affects children, although it can also occur in adults. It is characterized by red sores, fluid-filled blisters, scabby sores, itching, sore throat, and fever. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for impetigo is essential for effective management and prevention of this contagious condition.

Causes of Impetigo

Impetigo is caused by bacteria, primarily Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes. These bacteria can enter the body through cuts, insect bites, or other breaks in the skin. Impetigo is highly contagious and can spread through direct contact with an infected person or by touching contaminated objects.

Symptoms of Impetigo

The symptoms of impetigo typically appear 1 to 3 days after exposure to the bacteria. The most common symptoms include:

  • Red sores: Small red spots or bumps that quickly develop into larger sores.
  • Fluid-filled blisters: The sores may fill with a yellowish fluid that eventually bursts and forms a honey-colored crust.
  • Scabby sores: As the blisters burst, they leave behind scabby sores that can be itchy and uncomfortable.
  • Itching: The affected area may be itchy, leading to scratching and potential spread of the infection.
  • Sore throat: In some cases, impetigo can be accompanied by a sore throat, especially when caused by Streptococcus pyogenes.
  • Fever: Although rare, some individuals may experience a mild fever.

Treatment Options for Impetigo

Fortunately, impetigo can be effectively treated with proper medical care. The treatment options may include:


Topical or oral antibiotics are commonly prescribed to eliminate the bacteria causing impetigo. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by the healthcare provider to ensure complete eradication of the infection.

Topical Antiseptics

In addition to antibiotics, topical antiseptics can be used to clean the affected area and prevent further infection. These antiseptics help in reducing the spread of bacteria and promote faster healing.

Good Hygiene Practices

Practicing good hygiene is crucial in preventing the spread of impetigo. Encourage frequent handwashing with soap and water, especially after touching the affected area. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, clothing, or toys to minimize the risk of transmission.

Keep the Affected Area Clean and Dry

Gently wash the affected area with mild soap and water, and pat it dry with a clean towel. Avoid scratching the sores to prevent further infection or scarring.

Isolation and Avoidance

During the contagious phase of impetigo, it is important to keep the infected individual isolated from others, especially in schools or daycare settings. Avoid close contact with infected individuals and refrain from using their personal items until the infection has cleared.

Preventing Impetigo

Prevention is always better than cure. To reduce the risk of impetigo, consider the following preventive measures:

Maintain Cleanliness

Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that come into contact with the skin, such as countertops, doorknobs, and toys. This helps in reducing the spread of bacteria that can cause impetigo.

Encourage Proper Wound Care

Teach children the importance of cleaning and covering any cuts, scrapes, or insect bites to prevent bacterial entry. Promptly clean and apply an antiseptic to any open wounds.

Promote Good Personal Hygiene

Teach children to wash their hands frequently, especially before meals and after using the restroom. Emphasize the importance of not sharing personal items like towels, clothing, or utensils.

Regularly Wash and Change Bedding

Wash bedding, including sheets, pillowcases, and blankets, regularly to eliminate any bacteria that may be present. This is particularly important if someone in the household has impetigo.

By following these preventive measures, the risk of impetigo can be significantly reduced.

In conclusion, impetigo is a common and contagious skin infection characterized by red sores, fluid-filled blisters, scabby sores, itching, sore throat, and fever. It is caused by bacteria and can be effectively treated with antibiotics and topical antiseptics. Practicing good hygiene, keeping the affected area clean and dry, and following preventive measures can help prevent the spread of impetigo. By taking appropriate precautions and seeking timely medical care, individuals can effectively manage and overcome this condition.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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