Impi-what? Impetigo (say: im-pih-TIE-go) is a strange-sounding word that may be
new to you. It's an infection of the skin
caused by bacteria.
Impetigo is commonly found on the face, often around the nose and mouth. But it can
show up anywhere the skin has been broken.
If you have a cut or scrape or if you scratch your skin because of a bug
bite, eczema, or poison
ivy, germs may find
a way to get inside. Once inside, the bacteria cause small blisters on the skin. These
blisters burst and ooze fluid that crusts over, a condition called impetigo.
Kids seem to get it more than adults do, but impetigo can affect anyone.
What Causes Impetigo?
We all have bacteria living on our skin and in our nose, but most of the time they
don't cause any trouble. Two types of bacteria can cause impetigo: group A streptococcus
(say strep-toe-KAH-kus) and Staphylococcus aureus (say: stah-fih-lo-KAH-kus
OR-ee-us). It doesn't matter which bacteria cause someone's impetigo —
the treatment is almost the same.
How Do I Know if I Have It?
Impetigo usually starts as small blisters that burst and ooze fluid that crusts
over. The crust is yellow-brown, or honey-colored, making impetigo look different
from other scabs.
Another kind of impetigo affects babies and younger kids more than older kids.
In this type, the blisters are larger and take longer to burst. The fluid in these
blisters may start out clear and then turn cloudy.
What Will the Doctor Do?
If you and your parents think you have impetigo, you should see a doctor.
A doctor usually can tell if you have impetigo by examining your skin. If you have
mild impetigo, your doctor probably will prescribe an antibiotic ointment, which gets
put right on your skin. An antibiotic is a type of medicine that attacks bacteria.
If the impetigo has spread to a few places or if the antibiotic ointment is not
working, you may need to take an antibiotic pill or liquid for about 10 days. Remember:
It's important to finish ALL of the medicine, even if the spots clear up quickly.
What Can I Do?
Impetigo might itch, but try not to scratch or touch the sores. Touching them can
spread the sores to other parts of your body or to someone else. If you do touch the
area, be sure to wash your hands right away.
Your mom or dad can help you apply the ointment or take the medicine your doctor
prescribed. Your parent also can help you gently wash the infected areas with mild
soap and water, using a piece of clean gauze.
If a sore is very crusted, you can soak it in warm, soapy water to loosen the crust.
You don't have to get it all off, but try to keep it clean. Your parent also might
help you cover the sores with gauze and tape or a loose plastic bandage.
Impetigo is contagious, which means that you could spread it to other people. That's
why people with impetigo should keep the sores covered when they go to school or other
public places. After you take the medicine for least 24 hours, the impetigo isn't
contagious anymore. After 3 days, the sores should begin to heal.
Your mom or dad should call the doctor if you develop a fever
or if you don't get better after taking the medicine for a few days. Your parent should
call the doctor right away if skin around the impetigo sore becomes red, warm, swollen,
or painful if you touch it.
Can I Prevent Impetigo?
If someone in your family or a friend has impetigo, don't touch that person's skin.
Also steer clear of his or her clothes, towels, sheets, and pillows. The bacteria
that cause impetigo can live on all these things. Your parent should wash these items
in very hot water.
And here are some good habits that can help you avoid getting impetigo in the first
Take a bath or shower regularly.
Use soap to keep your skin clean.
Watch out for skin that's scraped or irritated, like a mosquito bite. Keep those
areas clean and covered and don't scratch.