h2. What is impetigo?
Impetigo is a common skin infection caused by bacteria called group A streptococcal (strep) or Staphylococcus aureus (staph). Infection happens when the strep or staph germs get into scrapes and insect bites. It is most common in the summer and can also happen after someone has had chickenpox.
Impetigo does not mean someone is not clean. But it often affects school-aged children who live in crowded conditions, play contact sports, or have other skin problems.
What does impetigo look like?
Impetigo usually appears around the mouth, nose or on skin that’s not covered by clothes. It looks like a cluster of red bumps or blisters. The blisters may ooze or be covered with a honey-coloured crust. Many germs live under this crust.
Sometimes the infection can become very bad. If this happens, your child will have fever, pain, swelling, and will feel weak.
How is it passed?
Impetigo spreads by direct and indirect contact.
Direct contact: It can be spread when someone touches an impetigo rash and then touches another person.
Indirect contact: The germs can get on bed sheets, towels or clothing that has been in contact with someone’s skin. Then another person can pick up the germs from those objects.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor can usually diagnose impetigo by looking at it. Sometimes, the doctor may take a cotton swab to gently take a small piece of the sore to test for the kind of germs causing the infection. But usually that isn’t needed.
How is it treated?
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. These will either be taken orally (through the mouth) or applied to the skin as an ointment (cream).
What can parents do?
If you think your child has impetigo, contact your doctor.
If your child has impetigo:
- Keep the sores covered with a dressing.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching infected skin.
- Family members should not share face cloths or hand and bath towels.
- Keep your child home from child care or school until he has taken the antibiotic for at least one full day.
- Your child should take all the medication prescribed by your doctor, even if you don’t see the rash or any sign of infection anymore.
Source: Well Beings: A Guide to Health in Child Care (3rd edition, 2008)
Reviewed by the following CPS Committees:
Public Education Advisory Committee
Last updated: March 2008