Introduction to Impetigo
Impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection that causes blisters and sores.
What is Impetigo?
Impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection that causes blisters and sores. It is more common in children than adults, affecting around 1 in 35 children each year in the UK. There are 2 main types of the condition: bullous impetigo and non-bullous (more common) impetigo. Though impetigo is rarely serious and usually clears by itself, it is important to see a dermatologist or GP if you think you or your child may have the condition as it can demonstrate similar symptoms to a more serious infection of the deeper layers of skin (cellulitis).
What causes Impetigo?
Impetigo is caused by a bacterial skin infection, usually due to streptococcus pyogenes or staphylococcus aureus. This infection usually begins when bacteria get into a cut or a lesion caused by another underlying skin disorder such as eczema.
There are several risk factors that increase your chance of developing impetigo. Children are at higher risk because their immune systems are not fully developed. Immunosuppression due to drugs or disease such as HIV also increases your risk. In addition, warm, humid weather and diabetes are risk factors.
What are the symptoms of Impetigo?
Non-bullous impetigo usually affects the skin around the mouth, resulting in the formation of sores that rapidly burst and leave a golden crust. These sores are usually not painful, but may be itchy. Despite this itchiness, it is important not to scratch the sores as this may cause the infection to be passed to other parts of your body and other people.
Bullous impetigo usually affects the central part of the body between your neck and waist, causing blisters to form. These usually burst after a few days, leaving a crust to develop. The blisters can be painful and itchy. However, it is again important not to scratch the skin as this can cause the infection to spread.
How is Impetigo treated?
Impetigo usually clears by itself within a few weeks. However, treatment can speed up recovery and reduce the risk of the infection being passed on to others. Treatment involves antibiotics, given in either topical creams or orally. To reduce risk of spreading the infection, it is important to regularly wash your bedsheets, not share towels and allow your child to take time off school until the sores stop crusting or until 48 hours after treatment has begun.