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Also called school sores
Impetigo (im-peh-tie-go) is a common skin infection, especially in children. It’s also highly contagious.
Most people get impetigo through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it. Children and athletes like wrestlers and football players often get it this way.
It’s also possible to get it by using something infected with the bacteria that cause impetigo. You can get it from an infected towel or sports equipment. Wearing infected clothing is another way to get impetigo.
Staph and strep cause most cases of impetigo. These bacteria cause impetigo by getting into the body. They can get in through a cut, scratch that barely breaks the skin, or bug bite. A rash, sore, or burn also provides a great entry point for the bacteria.
A child may get impetigo by scratching itchy eczema or chickenpox. The scratching breaks the skin, making it easy for the bacteria to get inside.
Sometimes impetigo develops on unbroken skin.
Treatment can quickly cure impetigo.
While highly contagious, impetigo is rarely serious. It often clears on its own in a few weeks.
Treatment, however, is recommended. By treating it, you reduce your risk of developing complications. Without treatment, the infection can cause new sores or blisters to develop for several weeks. The infection can also go deeper into the skin. This can be serious.
Treatment also reduces your risk of spreading impetigo to others.
Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
Craft, N, Lee PK, et al. “Superficial cutaneous infections and pyodermas.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1695-8.
Halpern AV and Heymann WR. “Bacterial diseases.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1075-6.