Skip to main content


Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is impetigo?

Impetigo is a skin infection caused by bacteria. The infection can cause sores to form anywhere on your body. The sores develop watery or pus-filled blisters that break and form thick crusts. Impetigo is most common in children and spreads easily from person to person.

How is impetigo diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your sores. A sample of fluid from one of your sores may show which bacteria is causing your infection.

How is impetigo treated?

Antibiotics treat the bacterial infection. Antibiotics may be given as a pill or cream. Wash your skin and gently remove any crusts before you apply the antibiotic cream.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How do I prevent the spread of impetigo?

  • Avoid direct contact. You can spread impetigo if someone touches or uses something that touched your infected skin. You can also spread impetigo on your own body when you touch the area and then touch somewhere else. Keep the sores covered with gauze so you will not scratch or touch them. Keep your fingernails short. Your child may need to wear mittens so he does not scratch his sores.
  • Wash your hands often. Always wash your hands after you touch the infected area. Wash your hands before you touch food, your eyes, or other people. If no water is available, use an alcohol-based gel to clean your hands.
  • Wash household items. Do not share or reuse items that have come in contact with impetigo sores. Examples include bedding, towels, washcloths, and eating utensils. These items may be used again after they have been washed with hot water and soap.

How do I clean my sores safely?

Wash your skin sores with antibacterial soap and water. You may need to do this 2 to 3 times each day until the sores heal. If the area is crusted, gently wash the sores with gauze or a clean washcloth to remove the crust. Pat the area dry with a clean towel. Wash your hands, the washcloth, and the towel after you clean the area around the sores.

When is it safe to return to work or school?

You may return to work or school 48 hours after you start the antibiotic medicine. If your child has impetigo, tell his school or daycare center about the infection.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have painful, red, warm skin around the blisters.
  • Your face is swollen.
  • You urinate less than usual or there is blood in your urine.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • The sores become more red, swollen, warm, or tender.
  • The sores do not start to heal after 3 days of treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Impetigo

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.