Impetigo is a contagious bacterial dermatological condition that is most common in infants and children. The condition is characterized by oozing, red sores that typically appear around the mouth, nose, feet, and hands that burst and develop a distinctive yellow-brown crust.

Symptoms of Impetigo

A child with classic impetigo will normally first develop sores on the face, but they quickly spread to other parts of the body through touch and contact with contaminated towels and clothing. The lesions may itch and become slightly sore, but the discomfort is usually mild. The sores often rupture and ooze before forming a honey-colored crust. Bullous impetigo, which is less common, causes large blisters on the trunk of the affected individual. Ecthyma is a form of impetigo that affects the deeper layers of skin and can result in painful sores and ulcers that can leave scars. Impetigo is easily diagnosed by the distinctive sores, so lab tests are not typically used. Complications from impetigo are rare. If the infection enters the bloodstream, it can cause cellulitis and kidney damage.

Causes of Impetigo

Impetigo is a bacterial infection that is easily spread by touching the sores of an affected person as well as their clothing, linens, or other objects that they have touched. The bacteria enter the body through small breaks or injuries in the skin. The condition is most common in young children in child care or school settings. Athletes participating in sports that require frequent skin-to-skin contact and adults with weakened immune systems are also prone to the condition. The bacteria that causes impetigo thrives in warm, humid conditions, so infections are most prevalent during the summer months.

Treating Impetigo

Topical or oral antibiotics are the most common treatments for impetigo. When using topical antibiotics, it is important to soak the area first. This loosens the scab so that the medication can reach the skin. In the case of oral antibiotics, it is important to complete the full course to prevent recurrence and antibiotic resistance. The condition is highly contagious, so children should be kept home from school or daycare until the doctor advises it is safe for them to return.