Impetigo is a common skin infection.
Impetigo is caused by streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph) bacteria. Methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA) is becoming a common cause.
Skin normally has many types of bacteria on it. When there is a break in the skin, bacteria can enter the body and grow there. This causes inflammation and infection. Breaks in the skin may occur from injury or trauma to the skin or from insect, animal, or human bites.
Impetigo may also occur on skin where there is no visible break.
Impetigo is most common in children who live in unhealthy conditions.
In adults, it may occur following another skin problem. It may also develop after a cold or other virus.
Impetigo can spread to others. You can catch the infection from someone who has it if the fluid that oozes from their skin blisters touches an open area on your skin.
Symptoms of impetigo are:
Your health care provider will look at your skin to determine if you have impetigo.
Your provider may take a sample of bacteria from your skin to grow in the lab. This can help determine if MRSA is the cause. Specific antibiotics are needed to treat this type of bacteria.
The goal of treatment is to get rid of the infection and relieve your symptoms.
Your provider will prescribe an antibacterial cream. You may need to take antibiotics by mouth if the infection is severe.
Gently wash (DO NOT scrub) your skin several times a day. Use an antibacterial soap to remove crusts and drainage.
The sores of impetigo heal slowly. Scars are rare. The cure rate is very high, but the problem often comes back in young children.
Impetigo may lead to:
Call your provider if you have symptoms of impetigo.
Prevent the spread of infection.
Keep your skin clean to prevent getting the infection. Wash minor cuts and scrapes well with soap and clean water. You can use a mild antibacterial soap.
Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.