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What is it

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial (Staphylococcus or Streptococcus) infection that typically occurs after a cut, bite, or sting has been scratched and becomes infected. The infection most often occurs among infants and children, but it can affect adults as well.


  • A small group of red blisters that break, becoming a damp area which oozes fluid and pus. The blisters typically appear on the face above the upper lip but may also be found on the legs and arms.
  • Honey-colored crusted areas that form soon after the blisters break.

What causes it

Physical contact with another person who has the infection is the usual cause. Children most often get impetigo because they play together and have more open cuts and sores than adults. It is also possible to acquire the infection from dirty towels or clothing used by someone with impetigo.

What if you do nothing

Impetigo rarely becomes a serious problem for adults and adolescents, but since it is highly contagious, it should be treated in order to contain the infection.

Home remedies

If only a few small sores appear, the following self-care measures can help clear up impetigo.

Remove the scabs

These must be removed so that an antibiotic ointment can reach the infected areas. Prepare a solution of warm water, dip in a clean washcloth, and gently rub the scabs until they come off. Then gently wash the entire area with soap and water

Use an antibiotic

Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment such as Betadine three times per day. Wash the affected area with soap and water before each application. After applying the ointment, cover the entire area with gauze. Reapply the antibiotic daily for seven days. Amore powerful prescription ointment called mupirocin is available; speak to your physician about using it.

Contain the infection

To keep the bacteria from spreading, don’t touch any part of your body after you have touched an area with impetigo. Wash your hands often. Also, do not let other people use your towel or washcloth. (Children who are infected should be instructed to observe these precautions.)

Change bed linens daily, and wash them with bleach using the hot water cycle.

Take care when shaving

Men need to avoid shaving over facial impetigo sores. Germs may be harbored in razors, so be sure to change blades daily.


Keep clean

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Make sure you or any infected children don’t scratch insect bites or pick at scabs or skin irritations. Also, be careful not to share combs, towels, or hairbrushes. To avoid the possibility of infection, wash all cuts and scrapes with soap and water.

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