Impetigo is a skin infection. When it affects just the surface, it’s called superficial impetigo. Impetigo can also affect deeper parts of the skin. This is called ecthyma. It may occur on healthy skin. Or it may occur where the skin was injured by a cut, scrape, or insect bite.
Impetigo is most common in children from ages 2 to 5. It is contagious. This means it’s easily passed from one person to another. It can be spread around a household. Children can infect other family members, and can reinfect themselves.
Impetigo is caused by bacteria. The bacteria that can cause it include:
Impetigo is more common in children, but adults may also have the infection. A child is more likely to get impetigo if they:
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They also vary depending on which bacteria caused it. Symptoms can include:
The bumps or sores can be painful and appear anywhere on the body. But they are most common on the face, arms and legs.
The symptoms of impetigo can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. They will give your child a physical exam. A sample of the pus from the sores may be sent to a lab. This is called a culture. It’s done to see what type of bacteria caused the infection. It can help the doctor decide the best antibiotic for treatment.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Treatment may include:
Possible complications of impetigo can include:
Impetigo caused by beta-hemolytic strep bacteria can cause:
You can help to prevent impetigo and prevent it from spreading to others. The following may help:
If your child is being treated for impetigo, contact your provider if their symptoms don't improve or get worse. Call the healthcare provider if your child has a skin infection after being in contact with anyone who has impetigo. Keep your child away from others until a diagnosis has been made.
The pediatric specialists at Children's National Hospital have the expertise to diagnose, treat and manage conditions of the skin, nails and hair common in infant and younger patients. Discover more about the treatments we offer.
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The Division of Dermatology at Children's National Hospital continues to expand services as more families seek our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, hair and nails.