- Sores smaller than 1 inch in diameter
- Often covered by a soft, yellow-brown scab or crust
- Scabs may intermittently drain pus
- Begin as small red bumps which rapidly change to cloudy blisters, then pimples, and finally open sores which weep
- Increases in size (any sore or wound that grows and doesn't heal)
- Impetigo often spreads and increases in number from scratching
- Main cause: superficial bacterial infections of small breaks in the skin
See More Appropriate Topic
- If it's in a wound, see WOUND INFECTION
- If doesn't look like impetigo, see RASHES, LOCALIZED AND CAUSE UNKNOWN
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Red or cola-colored urine
- Red streak runs from the impetigo
- Red tender area surrounds the impetigo
Call Your Doctor within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Fever or sore throat are present
- Large sore (> 1 inch across or 2.5 cm)
Call Your Doctor during Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Sores and crusts are also inside the nose
- Impetigo in 2 or more children (e.g. sibs, child care groups)
- 3 or more impetigo sores (Reason: need an oral antibiotic because many of these children also have strep pharyngitis or rhinitis)
Parent Care at Home if
- 1 or 2 impetigo sores that started with cut, scratch or insect bite and you don't think your child needs to be seen (Reason: probably will respond to antibiotic ointment)
Home Care Advice for Infected Insect Bite or Cut
- Remove Scabs: Soak off the scab using an antibacterial soap and warm water. The bacteria live underneath the scab.
Antibiotic Ointment: Apply an antibiotic ointment 3 times per day.
- Use Bacitracin or Polysporin ointment or one you already have.
- Cover it with a Band-Aid to prevent scratching and spread.
- Repeat the washing, ointment and Band-Aid 3 times per day.
- Avoid Picking: Discourage scratching and picking which spreads the impetigo.
- Contagiousness: For mild impetigo (1 or 2 sores), can attend school or day care if it is covered. For severe impetigo, child needs to take an oral antibiotic for > 24 hours before returning.
- Expected Course: Sore stops growing in 1 to 2 days and skin is healed in 1 week.
Call Your Doctor If
- Impetigo increases in size after 48 hours on antibiotic ointment
- New impetigo sore occurs
- Not completely healed in 1 week
- Your child becomes worse or develops any of the "Call Your Doctor Now" symptoms