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What is Impetigo?

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection, either Streptococcus or Staphylococcus. The face and other exposed areas are most likely to be affected. Impetigo affects primarily children, but adults can be infected by it as well. It is more common in warm climates.

How is it diagnosed?

Impetigo signs and symptoms

  • A red rash with many small blisters. Some blisters contain pus, and yellow crusts form when they break. The blisters don't hurt, but they may itch.
  • Slight fever (sometimes).

History is of the appearance of an itchy rash.

Physical exam shows the typical small, multiple, red-rimmed collections of pus (pustules). The infection is in the surface of the skin, not a deep infection.

Tests: A microscopic examination of a sample of the pus will confirm the infection.

How is it treated?

Antibiotics are used to treat this skin infection.


  • Antibiotic ointments may be prescribed.
  • Oral antibiotics may be prescribed.

Ilosone (Erythromycin)

What might complicate it?

Deeper infection of the skin is possible, forming a boil. Uncommonly, the Streptococci that cause impetigo can result in glomerulonephritis (an acute kidney disease).

Predicted outcome

Impetigo is readily treatable.


Infection of hair follicles (folliculitis) or erysipelas can resemble impetigo.

Appropriate specialists

Dermatologist and infectious disease specialist.

Notify your physician if

  • You or your child has symptoms of impetigo.
  • Fever occurs.
  • The sores continue to spread or don't begin to heal in 3 days, despite treatment.

Last updated 4 April 2018