Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin that is most common in young children. Our pharmacists may help you treat your impetigo with the use antibiotic. Antibiotics can also help protect others from getting sick.


What is Impetigo?

Impetigo is a common and highly contagious skin infection that causes sores and blisters. It’s not usually serious and often improves within a week of treatment or within a few weeks without treatment.

Impetigo is the most common skin infection in young children in the UK, but it can affect people of all ages.


Symptoms of Impetigo

There are 2 types of impetigo:

  • Non-bullous impetigo – the most common type
  • Bullous impetigo


Non-bullous impetigo

The symptoms of non-bullous impetigo begin with the appearance of red sores – usually around the nose and mouth but other areas of the face and the limbs can also be affected.

The sores quickly burst leaving behind thick, golden crusts typically around 2cm across. The appearance of these crusts is sometimes likened to cornflakes stuck to the skin.

After the crusts dry, they leave a red mark that usually fades without scarring. The time it takes for the redness to disappear can vary between a few days and a few weeks.  The Sores aren’t painful, but they may be itchy. It is important not to touch or scratch the sores because this can spread the infection to other parts of the body and to other people as it is a highly contagious condition.

Other symptoms, such as a hight temperature (fever) and swollen glands, are rare but can occur on more severe cases.


Preventing the spread of impetigo

During treatment, it’s important to take precautions to minimise the risk of impetigo spreading to other people or to other areas of the body.

Most people are no longer contagious after 48 hours of treatment or once their sores have dried and healed. It’s important to stay away from work, school, nursery or playgroup until this point.

The advice below can also help to prevent the spread of the infection:

  • Do not share flannels, sheets or towels with anyone who has impetigo – wash them at a high temperature after use
  • wash the sores with soap and water and cover them loosely with a gauze bandage or clothing
  • avoid touching or scratching the sores, or letting others touch them – it may help to ensure your nails are kept clean and short
  • avoid contact with newborn babies, preparing food, playing contact sports, or going to the gym – until the risk of infection has passed
  • wash your hands frequently – particularly after touching infected skin
  • washable toys should also be washed – wipe non-washable soft toys thoroughly with a cloth that has been wrung out in detergent and warm water and allowed to dry completely

If you think that the infection has spread to someone else, make sure they’re seen by a pharmacist as soon as possible.


Preventing recurrent impetigo

To reduce the risk of impetigo returning, make sure any cuts, scratches or bites are kept clean. Ensure any condition that causes broken skin, such as eczema, is treated promptly.

If you develop impetigo frequently, your doctor may suggest taking a swab from around your nose to see if you carry staphylococcal bacteria. These bacteria can live in the noses of some people without causing problems, although they can lead to impetigo if they infect broken skin nearby.

If you’re found to carry these bacteria, you may be prescribed an antiseptic nasal cream to apply several times a day for 5 to 10 days in an attempt to clear the bacteria and reduce the chances of impetigo recurring.


Complications of impetigo

Complications of impetigo are rare, but they can sometimes occur and can be serious. Tell your pharmacist if you have impetigo and your symptoms change or get worse.

Some complications associated with impetigo include:

  • cellulitis – an infection of the deeper layers of the skin and underlying tissue
  • scarlet fever – a rare bacterial infection that causes a fine, pink rash across the body
  • guttate psoriasis – a non-infectious skin condition that can develop in children and teenagers after a bacterial infection
  • septicaemia (a type of sepsis) – a bacterial infection of the blood
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) – a serious skin condition that looks like the skin has been scalded with boiling water
  • post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis – an infection of the small blood vessels in the kidneys

In very rare cases, impetigo may lead to some scarring, particularly if you scratch at the blisters, crusts or sores.


Treating Impetigo

Impetigo usually gets better without treatment in around 2 to 3 weeks.

However, treatment is often recommended because it can reduce the length of the illness to around seven to 10 days and can lower the risk of the infection being spread to others.

The main treatments prescribed are antibiotic creams or antibiotic tablets. These usually have to be used for around a week.

You can book a free appointment with one of our pharmacists today and get assessed and treated remotely.

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