Impetigo is a skin infection, most common in children, caused by bacteria, of either the streptococcus or staphylococcus varieties. It is highly contagious and can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or sharing of things like bedding, sheets, towels, clothing, and toys. It is very itchy and when scratched can spread to other parts of the body.

What does impetigo look like?

If you see small red spots that turn into blisters and eventually break open, you may have impetigo. The blisters can range in size from small pimples to larger coin-sized spots. Aside from being unsightly, impetigo can be uncomfortable.

How is impetigo treated?

Doctors and dermatologists normally treat impetigo with antibiotics, generally in the form of a cream or ointment. However, in more serious cases, they may prescribe an oral antibiotic.

Your dermatologist or doctor will give you specific directions for home care of impetigo, but in most cases he or she will suggest that you gently wash the area at least once a day prior to applying any ointments or creams. This will help the medication work better.

In all cases, patients should avoid scratching impetigo spots as it can easily be transmitted to other areas on the body. Furthermore, scratching may lead to unsightly scars. You may need to cut your child’s fingernails short to keep them from scratching.

How long does it take for impetigo to go away?

With proper antibiotic treatment, impetigo is usually no longer contagious after 24 hours. Depending on the severity of the sores, it may take anywhere from a week to ten days for impetigo to clear up completely.

Anytime you or your child gets a mysterious rash, you should immediately consult a board-certified dermatologist who can accurately diagnose the rash and offer an appropriate course of treatment. While many rashes and breakouts like impetigo may not be immediately dangerous, anytime the skin is broken by itchy, infection can occur and accurate diagnosis is critical.

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