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Impetigo

Impetigo is a skin infection that’s very contagious but not usually serious. It often gets better in 7 to 10 days with treatment. Anyone can get it, but it’s very common in young children.

Check if your child has impetigo
Impetigo starts with red sores or blisters, which quickly burst and leave crusty, golden-brown patches. These can:

  • Look a bit like cornflakes stuck to your child’s skin
  • They can get bigger
  • They can spread to other parts of your child’s body
  • They can be itchy
  • They can be painful sometimes

Sores (non-bullous impetigo) or blisters (bullous impetigo) can start anywhere – but usually on exposed areas like your child’s face and hands. It’s also common for blisters to start around your child’s middle.

image of young child smiling

See your GP if your child:

  • Might have impetigo
  • Had treatment for impetigo but the symptoms change or get worse
  • Had impetigo before and it keeps coming back

Impetigo is very infectious. Check with the GP before you go in to the practice. They may suggest a phone consultation.

Treatment from your GP
Your GP will check it’s not something more serious, like cellulitis.
If it’s impetigo, they can prescribe antibiotic cream to speed up your child’s recovery or antibiotic tablets if it’s very bad.

Don’t stop using the antibiotic cream or tablets early, it’s important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if the impetigo starts to clear up.

If your child’s impetigo keeps coming back
Your GP can take a swab from around your child’s nose to check for the bacteria that causes impetigo.
They might prescribe an antiseptic nasal cream to try to clear the bacteria and stop the impetigo coming back.

Stop impetigo spreading or getting worse
Impetigo can easily spread to other parts of your child’s body or to other people until it stops being contagious.

It stops being contagious:

  • 48 hours after your child starts using the medicine your GP prescribed
  • When the patches dry out and crust over – if they don’t get treatment

You can do some things to help stop it spreading or getting worse while it’s still contagious:

Do

  • Keep your child away from school or nursery
  • Keep sores, blisters and crusty patches clean and dry
  • Cover them with loose clothing or gauze bandages
  • Ensure your child washes their hands frequently
  • Wash their flannels, sheets and towels at a high temperature
  • Wash or wipe down toys with detergent and warm water

Don’t

  • Let your child touch or scratch sores, blisters or crusty patches – this also helps stop scarring
  • Let your child have close contact with other children, or people with diabetes or a weakened immune system (if they’re having chemotherapy, for example)
  • Share flannels, sheets or towels

How to avoid impetigo
Impetigo usually infects skin that’s already damaged. Avoid infection by:

  • Keeping cuts, scratches and insect bites clean – for example, by washing with warm water and soap
  • Getting treatment for skin conditions, like eczema

Visit the NHS website to find out how you can protect your family from impetigo.