Medical Q&As

Impetigo - what is it?

What is impetigo?

Impetigo is a common skin infection that we frequently see in young children. It can be caused by either of two species of bacteria known as streptococci and staphylococci. The rash is most commonly seen on the face, especially around the mouth but it can occur anywhere on the body. The rash is frequently itchy giving rise to scratching or rubbing of the skin, which results in spreading of the rash to previously unaffected areas of skin. It is not unusual to see several discrete areas of rash on different parts of the face, which have been spread in this way. The rash begins as an oozing red area that quickly develops the typical golden crust that is almost diagnostic of impetigo. The infection is spread through direct contact with infected skin. Occasionally it might spread through touching towels, clothing or bed linen that has been in contact with infected skin. It can be treated very effectively with antibiotic creams but some cases may also require oral antibiotics. There are a number of rules of hygiene that should be applied with a sufferer with impetigo. The person should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water if they touch the rash. Separate towels and face cloths should be reserved for the exclusive use of the sufferer. Young children should be excluded from school or day care until 24 hours after treatment has commenced. People involved in food handling should also be excluded until 24 hours after the start of treatment.