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March 6, 2024

Impetigo is a common bacterial skin infection. It predominantly affects children but can occur in people of all ages. It is characterized by red, itchy, and crusty patches on the skin, particularly around the nose and mouth, and on the hands and feet. Over the course of a week, the sores burst and form honey-colored crusts.

Impetigo can be contagious, so it’s important to know the causes, symptoms, and prevention measures.

Causes and Risk Factors

Impetigo is caused by bacteria, most commonly:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pyogenes

These bacteria can enter the skin via insect bites, scrapes, cuts, or other breaks in the skin’s barrier. Once inside, they multiply and cause infection, leading to the characteristic symptoms of impetigo.

Impetigo is contagious. If you touch a person’s impetigo sores or goods such as towels, clothes, or sheets used by the individual, you may get these bacteria.

What are the symptoms of impetigo?

The symptoms of impetigo can vary depending on the cause. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • Red, itchy, and crusty patches on the skin
  • Swollen lymph nodes near the affected area
  • Pain or discomfort when touching the affected area
  • Itching or burning sensation

Is Impetigo Contagious?

Yes, impetigo is contagious. The bacteria that cause impetigo can easily spread from person to person through direct contact with the infected skin. It can also spread by sharing contaminated items such as towels, clothing, or bedding. This is why impetigo is often seen in settings where close contact is common, such as schools, daycares, and sports teams.

It is often no longer contagious after 24 to 48 hours of treatment. Without treatment, impetigo often resolves on its own in 2 to 4 weeks.

How is impetigo treated?

The initial line of treatment for this bacterial infection is antibiotics. The type of antibiotic you receive is determined by the distribution and severity of your lesions.

If impetigo affects only a small region of your skin, topical antibiotic creams, gels, or ointments are the best treatments. Options include:

  • mupirocin cream or ointment 
  • retapamulin ointment 

If your impetigo is severe or extensive, your doctor can give oral medicines like:

  • clindamycin
  • Amoxicillin/clavulanate
  • cephalosporins

How to prevent impetigo?

Impetigo normally resolves within 7-10 days of treatment. If you have an underlying infection or skin disorder, the infection may take longer to resolve.

To prevent impetigo, follow these steps:

  • Maintain proper hygiene by washing hands frequently and avoiding contact with others’ skin.
  • To keep your skin clean and dry. Use gentle soap and water.
  • Use non-irritating cosmetics and soaps.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
  • Prevent impetigo from spreading by treating skin problems like eczema or psoriasis.

Impetigo is a common skin infection that can be contagious. Knowing the causes, symptoms, and prevention measures can help you manage impetigo effectively. By practicing good hygiene, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and treating any skin conditions, you can reduce your risk of impetigo and prevent its spread.

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