Mild Impetigo isn’t immediately dangerous, and typically has no lasting effects. It is, however, highly contagious. Therefore, we recommend seeing your primary care provider if you suspect your kiddo has Impetigo, since there are easy and effective treatments.
Impetigo is caused when bacteria, usually Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes (group "A" Streptococcus) infects the skin.
Impetigo is most common in little kids from 2-5 years old, but can also affect older children, and even adults.
Impetigo is extremely contagious and spreads by contact. Kids and adults contract Impetigo in crowded settings, like daycares and schools, or in sports where there is skin-to-skin contact, like football. Folks are at higher risk of getting Impetigo if they have poor nutrition, diabetes mellitus, or breaks in the skin such as from mosquito bites, eczema, scabies, or herpes.
Impetigo is hard to miss. The disease begins with red, itchy sores, usually around the nose or mouth. The sores break open and leak a clear/yellow fluid or pus for a few days. Next, a crusty yellow or “honey-colored” scab forms over the sore, which then heals without leaving a scar. Impetigo sores can easily spread from the original infection site to other parts of the body if your kiddo is touching or scratching the sores.
The disease begins with red, itchy sores, usually around the nose or mouth. The sores break open and leak a clear/yellow fluid or pus for a few days. Next, a crusty yellow or “honey-colored” scab forms over the sore, which then heals without leaving a scar.
Larger blisters show up (usually on the torso) of infants and young children, then rupture and leave a thin brown crust.
A more serious form of Impetigo where the disease penetrates deeper into the skin — causing painful fluid- or pus-filled sores that turn into deep ulcers.
The best way to prevent Impetigo is by good hand washing. A thorough hand wash, especially after coughing or sneezing, prevents the spread of the bacterias that cause Impetigo. We know this can be tough with young kids! Similar to other rashes like Hand, Foot, and Mouth, Impetigo is a disease that many children get, so don’t worry too much if yours does too!
Impetigo is contagious and spreads quickly. If you suspect your kiddo has Impetigo, we recommend making an appointment with your primary care provider.
Depending on how much the rash has spread, you may be prescribed either a topical antibiotic (cream or ointment) or oral antibiotics to help treat the Impetigo.
Additionally, there are things you can do at home to prevent the spread of Impetigo to your other family members and communities:
Impetigo is often uncomfortable and can be itchy for kids. Some things that help are:
With treatment, Impetigo usually resolves within 7-10 days and does not leave any scars.
Rare complications like kidney problems (post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis) can occur with Impetigo. If these occur, they usually happen one to two weeks after the skin sores go away. Symptoms of post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis include rust-colored or bloody urine, swelling (edema) often in the belly area or face, or joint pain/stiffness. This complication is extremely rare and happens less than one time in a million.
Born and raised in the Portland area, Chelsea received her Masters in Physician Assistant Studies from Oregon Health and Science University, and is currently working on her Doctor of Medical Science degree. She has over 11 years of experience in pediatric medicine, in both primary and urgent care. When not at work, she enjoys traveling, hiking, camping, and exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her family and their rambunctious dog.