By: Stephane Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
Reviewed by: Kelsey Sorvick, RN, Penfield Children’s Center

Caused by a bacteria, impetigo is a skin infection that most commonly appears as sores around a child’s mouth and nose, and can also show up on the hands and feet. These sores can rupture easily and spread from one body part to another, as well as to other people. Because impetigo is highly contagious, it’s important to keep your child home from school or daycare until she is cleared by a doctor. Children can get impetigo by coming into contact with an open sore from someone else or by touching an object, such as a toy or book that the infected child already touched.

According to, children who also have eczema, poison ivy or a cut or scrape on their body might be more prone to developing the infection. When a child scratches skin that is already irritated, impetigo can develop.

In addition to skin lesions, other risk factors of developing impetigo include:

  • Humid weather: Most children develop the infection when the weather is hot and humid.
  • Increased contact with others: Impetigo easily spreads between children in daycare or school settings. Involvement in contact sports, such as wrestling can also spread the infection from one child to another.
  • Age: Children between the ages of 2 – 5 years most commonly develop the infection.

There are also two different types of impetigo: bullous and non-bullous. Bullous impetigo appears as large fluid-filled blisters that do not burst right away. Non-bullous impetigo usually starts as small blisters that rupture, leaving a honey colored crust over the blister.

While impetigo usually isn’t cause for concern, it is important to seek medical treatment to avoid complications from an ongoing infection, such as scarring, kidney problems and cellulitis. Although rare, these complications can lead to serious health issues down the road.

What should I do if I suspect my child has impetigo?

If you think your child might have impetigo, make an appointment with her physician.  The doctor will most likely be able to tell if your child has the infection by just looking at the sores. If your child is found to have impetigo, the doctor will probably prescribe an antibiotic ointment that can be applied directly to the affected area. If your child has multiple areas on her body affected, the doctor might prescribe an antibiotic in liquid or pill form to get rid of the infection. Once your child starts the antibiotic, the sores should start to clear up in a couple days. To help speed up the healing process, make sure to soak sores that have crusted over with warm, soapy water. You can also place a non-stick bandage over the sore to stop the infection from spreading to another part of the body.

How can I prevent my child from getting impetigo?

While it’s difficult to completely prevent this infection since it is contagious, there are steps you can take to reduce your child’s chances of getting it.

  • Practice thorough handwashing with your child. Teach her to wash her hands frequently and with soap, especially while at school or daycare.
  • Bathe your child regularly with a gentle soap that does not irritate her skin.
  • If you notice a scrape, rash or other skin irritation on her body, make sure to pay special attention to the area and monitor if it spreads. Treat these areas and if you do have concern, contact your child’s physician to see if he/she can provide guidance on a special ointment or cream that could clear up the affected area.
  • Do not share bath towels among family members.
  • Keep your child’s fingernails short to avoid spreading the infection from one area of the body to another from scratching.

While impetigo might be alarming to look at, rest assured that proper care and treatment from your child’s physician will help clear up the infection and have her back at school quickly.

What steps have you taken to reduce bacterial infections in your child?



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