Impetigo is a skin infection that is very contagious but not usually serious. It often gets better in 7 to 10 days if you get treatment. Anyone can get it, but it's very common in young children.
Symptoms of impetigo
Impetigo starts with red sores or blisters. They burst and leave crusty, golden-brown patches.
- look a bit like cornflakes stuck to your skin
- get bigger
- spread to other parts of your body
- be itchy
- sometimes be painful
Treatment of impetigo
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you or your child:
- might have impetigo
- had treatment for impetigo but the symptoms change or get worse
- had impetigo before and it keeps coming back
Impetigo is very infectious. Check with your GP before you go to them. They may suggest a phone consultation.
A GP will check if it's something more serious, like cellulitis.
If it's impetigo, they can prescribe antibiotic cream to speed up your recovery. They may prescribe antibiotic tablets if it's very bad.
Do not stop using the antibiotic cream or tablets early, even if the impetigo starts to clear up.
If your impetigo keeps coming back
A GP can take a swab from around your nose to check for the bacteria that causes impetigo.
They might prescribe an antiseptic nasal cream. This is to try to clear the bacteria and stop the impetigo coming back.
Impetigo can spread to other parts of your body, or to other people, until it stops being contagious.
Impetigo stops being contagious:
- 48 hours after you start using the medicine your GP prescribed
- when the patches dry out and crust over – if you do not get treatment
Things you can do to help stop impetigo spreading or getting worse while it's still contagious:
stay away from school or work
keep sores, blisters and crusty patches clean and dry
cover them with loose clothing or gauze bandages
wash your hands
wash your flannels, sheets and towels at a high temperature
wash or wipe down toys with detergent and warm water if your children have impetigo
do not touch or scratch sores, blisters or crusty patches – this also helps stop scarring
do not have close contact with children, or people with diabetes or a weakened immune system
do not share flannels, sheets or towels
do not prepare food for other people
do not go to the gym
do not play contact sports
How to avoid impetigo
Impetigo usually infects skin that's already damaged.
Avoid infection by:
- keeping cuts, scratches and insect bites clean by washing with warm water and soap
- getting treatment for skin conditions, like eczema
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE