Impetigo Basics

Other Skin Conditions, Skin Center
on October 23, 2011

Impetigo is a very common skin infection that looks like small pus-filled bumps or rash and can easily spread from one person to another. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains, “Impetigo is contagious. You can catch this infection if the fluid that oozes from the blisters touches an open area on your skin.” This infection is most common in children and infants because they are more likely to have nicks and cuts in the skin through which bacteria can enter and because they are less likely to practice good hygiene to prevent infection. It is generally not serious — though some serious complications arise on rare occasions — and can be easily treated.

Impetigo causes. The bacteria that are most often responsible for impetigo are streptococcus and staphylococcus. Any break in the skin, including tiny cuts and abrasions that are not apparent to the naked eye, can allow the bacteria to enter. It is not unusual to get impetigo in areas of skin that do not appear damaged. If you or your child gets spots that look like they may be impetigo, it is very important not to scratch the area. The infection can spread to any part of the body (or someone else’s body) that comes into contact with fluid from the sores.

Protecting from impetigo. The easiest way to protect yourself from impetigo is to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly with mild antibacterial soap, especially if someone in the house already has an infection. If your child has impetigo, encourage him or her to wash hands frequently, using a fresh washcloth and towel every time. Do not let any uninfected person in the household use these same cloths. With very young children or infants, have them wear mittens or soft gloves that will prevent them from scratching the sores and spreading the disease. Avoid touching your eyes until after you have washed your hands if you have come into contact with someone who has an infection. If you suspect impetigo, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor, as some rare cases can result in further complications.