What is Impetigo?

Impetigo is a skin infection that is characterized by red sores that develop crusty yellow scabs. They can form fluid-filled blisters that burst or seep. It mostly affects babies and preschool children, but not always. It is caused by streptococci and streptococcus bacteria, and it is highly contagious.

Those with poor hygiene are at greatest risk, but it can infect anyone, especially when the skin is broken by insect bites, illness or injury. High humidity is also a risk factor, but some naturally carry the bacteria in the nasal passages. The spread of impetigo can be prevented through good hygiene and by not sharing items that come in contact with the skin.

What are the Symptoms of Impetigo?

The initial symptom of impetigo is one or more red skin lesions. The sores appear most often around the mouth, nose and on the legs, but they can form anywhere on the skin. The sores form scab-like yellowish crusts and pustules that break and ooze. The lesions may itch or slightly hurt, but most cause little to no discomfort when left alone.

How is Impetigo Treated?

Impetigo is usually treated with topical antibiotic medication. When scabs and crusts are thick, they may be removed by soaking or covering the areas with warm moist compresses. Gently removing the crusts enables the medication can reach the infected tissue. Those with several lesions may also be prescribed antibiotics by mouth.

Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
September 01, 2017