Impetigo is a skin infection caused by bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is usually caused either by group A streptococci, the same bacteria that causes strep throat , or Staphyloccocus aureus bacteria. It can affect skin anywhere on the body but usually shows up first around the nose and mouth. According to the American Medical Association (AMA) impetigo most often infects school age children and is more common during hot and humid weather. Skin that is already irritated from other conditions like eczema , poison ivy or allergies is more likely to become infected.

Symptoms of impetigo

According to AMA, impetigo may first appear as itchy skin with tiny blisters, often around the nose or mouth. The blisters will eventually break open and the skin underneath them may ooze fluid. A thick, yellow-brown discharge will then dry and crust over the affected area. AMA says the crust makes the affected area look as if it has been coated with honey or brown sugar.

Very contagious

According to CDC, impetigo can be spread from one area on a person's body to another area through direct contact with sores and discharge on the skin, like through scratching. Impetigo can also be spread from one person to another, especially among people who spend time in close contact with one another, like family members or children in child care facilities and schools. It can spread very quickly.

Treatments and care

Impetigo is usually treated with antibiotics , which may be taken by mouth or spread on the affected area as an ointment. Wear gloves when applying a topical ointment and wash hands afterwards. According to AMA, the affected areas should be washed twice a day with antiseptic soap and covered. It is also important to remember to take the full treatment of the antibiotics even if the sores heal earlier.

AMA reports that healing usually begins within three days. They suggest that a child with impetigo may return to school or child care once the child is no longer contagious, usually about 48 hours after treatment begins.


To prevent the spread of impetigo CDC recommends that caregivers: