Impetigo: Facts About This Contagious Infection

Impetigo (im-puh-TIE-go) is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection most common among pre-school children. People who play close contact sports such as football and wrestling are also susceptible, regardless of their ages. Impetigo generally appears as honey-colored scabs and is often found on the arms, legs, or face. The infection is spread by direct contact with these lesions or with other parts of the body that have been touched after the lesions have been scratched.

The most common form of impetigo, also called nonbullous impetigo, most often begins as a red sore near the nose or mouth which breaks and forms a honey-colored scab, followed by a red mark which heals without leaving a scar. Sores are not painful but may be itchy. Lymph nodes in the affected area may be swollen, but fever is rare. Touching or scratching the sores may easily spread the infection to other parts of the body and towels should not be shared during an active infection. It can spread easily among children because they often touch or scratch the sores and then touch objects around them or their playmates.

A more serious form of impetigo is called ecthyma. In this form, painful fluid- or pus-filled sores, usually on the arms and legs, become ulcers that penetrate deeper into the skin. After they break open, they form hard, thick, gray-yellow scabs, which sometimes leave scars. Ecthyma may be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes in the affected area.

Mild cases may be treated with bactericidal ointments, such as mupirocin, which in some countries may be available over-the-counter. More severe cases require oral antibiotics. If you suspect you or your child has impetigo, wash the area carefully and do not touch it. If it persists, visit the doctor for an evaluation and treatment, which is effective within 5-7 days.

At Advanced Dermatology Care, our dermatologists Dr. Kenneth Egan, Dr. Rebecca Hall and PA, Melissa Raue specialize in all of your family’s skincare needs in general medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology including impetigo, acne, skin cancer, eczema, warts, moles, fungal nail infections, rashes and scars. Our offices are located in the Fairfield County, CT towns of Danbury, Norwalk and Ridgefield.

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Topics: Blog, Dermatology