Impetigo – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Impetigo is a type of skin infection that is very contagious and typically affects children and infants. The condition is characterized by the appearance of reddish sores on the face, particularly around the mouth and the nose. The sores rupture and form into honey-colored scabs.

Impetigo tends to disappear on its own after 2 to 3 weeks. However, use of antibiotics can decrease the span of the condition and also aid in preventing the spread of infection to others.

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The child affected by impetigo may have to be kept away from day care or school till the disease has resolved and he/she is no longer contagious. This usually occurs 24 to 48 hours after the commencement of antibiotics therapy. It may be noted that without antibiotic treatment impetigo sores remain contagious till they clear off.

Symptoms of impetigo

Some of the common signs and symptoms of impetigo are listed below:

  • Formation of reddish sores that quickly burst and discharge fluids for some days.
  • The sores typically appear around the mouth and nose; but it can also migrate to other regions of the body via contaminated clothing, fingers, and towels.
  • Later, the ruptured sores will develop into a yellowish-brown scab.

Bullous impetigo is a rare type of impetigo which may cause the formation of bigger blisters that affect the diaper region or the trunk of infants and younger children.

Ecthyma is a more severe type of impetigo which occurs in the deeper skin layers and results in development of pus or fluid filled, painful sores. They may eventually progress into deep ulcers.

Impetigo is generally not a life-threatening illness. However, it can result in some health complications such as:

  • Impetigo may lead to cellulitis which is a potentially severe infection of the tissues that occur beneath the skin. Such infection may later spread into the bloodstream and to the lymph nodes. Untreated cases of cellulitis can rapidly become very dangerous.
  • Ecthyma related ulcers can result in extensive scarring.
  • One of the species of bacteria that cause impetigo may harm the kidneys.


Impetigo is caused after transfer of the bacterial infection via contact with the sores of an infected person, or with things that the patients have touched such as bed linen, clothing, toys, towels, etc.

Some of the risk factors that can increase the vulnerability to developing impetigo are listed below:

  • Impetigo can affect people from all age groups. However, it is most commonly observed in children between ages 2 and 6 years.
  • Impetigo infections are more prevalent during summer, in warm and humid weather conditions.
  • The infections tend to spread more easily in crowded conditions such as day care facilities and schools.
  • The bacteria responsible for causing impetigo usually gain entry into the skin via a tiny skin wound, a rash, or an insect bite.
  • Participating in different sports that involve direct skin-to-skin contact, like wrestling or football, also increases the threat to developing impetigo.
  • People suffering from diabetes, the elderly, or those with impaired immune systems are at greater risk to developing the more severe form of impetigo, i.e. ecthyma.

Diagnosis of impetigo

Dermatologists will usually diagnose a case of impetigo just by looking at the characteristic sores. Laboratory tests are usually not performed.

However, if the impetigo sores do not resolve even after antibiotics therapy, then the health care provider may suggest a lab test of the liquid oozed by the sores. This will help find out the right kind of antibiotics that can eliminate the bacterial infection.

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It may be noted that certain types of bacteria which cause impetigo have already developed resistance to some antibiotic medications.

Impetigo Treatment

  • Impetigo sores and infection is mostly treated with antibiotics. Antibiotic creams and ointments can be applied directly on the soresafter cleaning and removing the overlying crusts with wet compresses or warm water.
  • Mild impetigo infections and sores which have not migrated to other body areas can be treated with topical antibiotics containing bacitracin. A nonstick bandage may be used to cover the affected area, thereby preventing its spread to other areas.
  • Excessive number of impetigo sores may require treatment with oral antibiotics. It is important to finish the entire course of this treatment, even if the sores have healed completely. Not doing so can allow the bacteria to develop resistance to the drug, and also increase the risk to recurrent impetigo infections.

The below listed self-care guidelines can be taken to prevent the spread of impetigo infection from one affected family member to others:

  • Wash the patient’s clothes, bed sheets, towels, etc. on a daily basis.
  • Wash the impetigo sores with running water and mild soap, and then place a gauze over it.
  • Use gloves when applying antibiotic creams and later wash the hands thoroughly.
  • Cut the nails of the affected child so that he/she cannot aggravate the condition by scratching it.

Impetigo Pictures

Here are impetigo images and photos; notice how they forms sores on the skin, particularly, on the face.

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