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Impetigo

Blistering and crusting of the skin caused by a bacterial infection

  • More common in children
  • Gender, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

The blistering skin condition impetigo is caused by bacteria entering broken skin, typically where there is a cut, an area of eczema, or a cold sore. The condition is highly contagious and is spread by physical contact. It is more common in children.

What are the symptoms?

Impetigo can appear anywhere on the body but usually occurs on the face, especially around the nose and mouth. The following symptoms usually develop over 1–2 days:

  • Initially, the skin reddens and tiny, fluid-filled blisters appear.

  • The blisters burst soon after they are formed, releasing a yellow fluid.

  • The skin underneath the burst blisters becomes red and weeping.

  • The blisters dry out to form an itchy, honey-coloured crust.

The blistered patch often spreads. Left untreated, it may become quite large.

What is the treatment?

Your doctor may prescribe topical anti-biotics (see Preparations for skin infections and infestations) or oral antibiotics. Soaking the crusts with warm salt water helps to remove them and relieve itching. With treatment, impetigo usually clears up in a few days. To avoid spreading the condition to others, wash your hands often and do not share face flannels. Keep an affected child home from school.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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