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What is impetigo?

Impetigo is an infection of the skin caused by certain types of bacteria (Streptococcus or Staphylococcus). The bacteria enter the skin damaged by scratching, cuts or other skin problems. Impetigo is more common in infants and children. It can easily spread from one person to another.

How does it present?

It usually commences as small blisters which then burst and ooze a liquid. The liquid then dries up forming a crust which is yellowish brown or honey coloured.

Which part of the body is affected?

Impetigo is commonly seen on the face around the mouth and nose. However it can appear in other parts of the body especially the exposed parts.

Some examples of impetigo:


How is it transmitted?

Impetigo easily spreads from one person to another by the following methods :

  • Body contact with a person who has impetigo
  • Sharing of clothes, towels or bedding with a person who has impetigo It can also spread from one part of the body to another.


If impetigo not treated, the child can develop:

  • Fever / Sepsis.
  • Cellulitis.
  • Osteomyelitis.
  • Occasionally, infection with Streptococcus bacteria can lead to a serious kidney disease called Glomerulonephritis.
  • In babies, impetigo may be more wide-spread and more severe.

What should you do if your child has impetigo?

  1. Your child should be brought to see a doctor.
  2. Treatment with an antibiotic ointment application alone may be sufficient if the impetigo lesions are small and few.
  3. Antibiotics by mouth may be needed if the impetigo is more wide-spread or more severe.

Other measures :

  • Gently wash the crusted areas with antiseptic soap / solution and water 3-4 times per day.
  • Refrain from scratching to prevent spreading to other areas.

How should this infection be prevented from spreading?

  • Keep children away from school or childcare centres until the impetigo has dried up.
  • Avoid sharing of towels, clothes and bed linen.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching infected skin.
  • Keep nails short and clean.
  • Ensure that the medicines are taken as prescribed by the doctor.
Last Reviewed : 27 April 2012
Writer : Dr. R. Sukumar a/l Rajaretnam
Reviewer : Dr. Sabeera Begum bt. Kader Ibrahim