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Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that is characterized by blisters that may itch.

Impetigo commonly occurs when bacteria enter the skin through cuts, scrapes or insect bites, but sometimes it affects perfectly healthy skin. It starts as a red sore that quickly ruptures, oozes for a few days and then forms a yellowish-brown crust that looks like honey or brown sugar. Impetigo is highly contagious, and scratching or touching the sores is likely to spread the infection to other parts of the body as well as to other people.

Impetigo is seldom serious, and minor infections may clear on their own in 2 to 3 weeks. But because impetigo can sometimes lead to complications, your child's doctor may choose to treat it with an antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics. If so, healing should begin in about 3 days. Most often, your child can return to school or a child-care setting as soon as he or she isn't contagious — usually within 24 hours of starting antibiotic therapy.


The treatments for impetigo may vary depending on your child's age, the type of impetigo and the severity of the infection. Treatments include:

  • Hygienic measures. Sometimes your pediatrician may choose to treat minor cases of impetigo with hygienic measures. Keeping your child's skin clean and bacteria-free can help mild infections heal on their own.

  • Topical antibiotics. In some cases, your pediatrician may prescribe an antibiotic that you apply to your child's skin (topical antibiotic), such as mupirocin ointment (Bactroban). Topical antibiotics avoid some of the side effects of oral antibiotics such as diarrhea. The downside is that bacteria may become resistant to them over time.

  • Oral antibiotics. Your doctor is likely to prescribe an oral antibiotic for ecthyma and severe cases of impetigo contagiosa. The type of antibiotic will depend on the severity of the infection and any other allergies or conditions your child might have. Be sure to finish the entire course of medication even if your child seems better. This helps prevent the infection from recurring and makes it less likely that bacteria will become resistant to the antibiotics.

Impetigo > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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