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Impetigo is a very common skin problem in children. It is an infection of the skin caused by germs that normally live on the skin. Germs that live on the skin can infect cuts, scratches and insect bites and cause impetigo. This infection occurs any time of the year, but more often during warm weather.

What you may see

Most impetigo will begin as a small red bump that becomes a crusty larger circle. It may spread to other areas of the skin on any part of the body. It can be worse if it occurs around the mouth or nose.

In infants, impetigo may also look like large blisters in the diaper area that spread in spite of creams and washing. Impetigo is not painful to your child, but it might cause itching. Your child’s scratching can spread the infection to other parts of the body. Keep fingernails short and wash hands frequently with soap and water.


Your child will be treated with either a cream or ointment applied to the skin or with an antibiotic taken by mouth. Your child’s doctor will decide which treatment is best, depending on how many sores your child has, how severe they are, and where they are. Once the medicine has been started, expect the rash to get better in 3 days and it should be gone in one week. Some skin color changes or spots will last for 6 to 12 months.

Home Care

Give your child all the ordered medicine. Use plain soap and water to wash the sores. Do not use Band-Aids or tape to cover them. It is best to leave the areas open to air.

This infection can be spread to other people so wash your hands after touching the infected area. Other family members should not use your child’s towel or wash cloth. Try not to let your child touch other kids until the rash is gone. Your child may return to school 24 hours after treatment is started.

When to be concerned

Most impetigo will be better after 2 or 3 days of medicine. Have your child see the doctor if:

  • The impetigo changes into swelling of the skin with redness or tenderness.
  • Infected areas begin around the eye(s) and the eye(s) become swollen or tender.
  • Face turns red and is sensitive to touch.
  • A fever or a sore throat occurs.
  • The impetigo gets larger or your child has more sores after 48 hours of medicine.
  • Urine turns red or cola colored.
  • Child is not getting better or seems to be getting worse.
  • Other people in the family develop impetigo.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/06

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