Children often get impetigo, which is an infection of the skin. This illness is caused by bacteria and can spread quickly. It is best to get treatment so that the bacteria do not get deeper into the skin and cause a more serious infection. It also lowers the chance that someone else will get sick.

At first, someone with impetigo usually gets small blister-like sores on their skin that are red. Sometimes these sores ooze and itch. They tend to form a yellow or gold crust over time. Most of the time, the sores show up on the face, trunk, arms, or legs.

Causes and triggers

When bacteria get into the body, usually through a small cut or scratch, they cause the infection. It is easy to get if you touch a wound that is been infected or something that is been contaminated (e.g., bed linen, towel, clothing). Seven to ten days after being exposed, impetigo shows up.

There are also other things that might help the infection spread or grow:

Diseases of the skin (e.g., eczema, scrape)

Scratching, because it can make the skin infection spread.

A warm, humid environment

Living in crowded places, because the disease spreads easily between people who are close to each other.


Treatment varies based on how bad the infection is. Most of the time, the infection is only on the surface of the skin and can be treated with an antibiotic cream. If the infection is deeper or more widespread, you may need to take antibiotics by mouth.

The person is contagious until all the crusts have healed or for at least 24 to 48 hours after starting antibiotics.

If the infection is treated well, it rarely lasts longer than 7 days.

To help stop impetigo from spreading from one person to another:

Wash the area gently with soap and water, then put gauze over it.

Wash the sick person's clothes every day and do not let anyone else wear them.

Cut the infected person's nails to keep them from scratching and making things worse.

Wash your hands often.

Keep the sick person at home until they can no longer spread the disease.

When should I go to a doctor or nurse?

Check with a doctor or nurse if:

Your child or you are showing signs of impetigo.

You have already seen a doctor, but you or your child do not seem to be getting better, even though you are getting treatment.