Impetigo: what should I know?

February 26, 2024

Impetigo is a commonly encountered skin condition, particularly among children. As parents, it is essential to be informed about the causes, symptoms, duration, and treatment of this infection to act promptly and correctly. In this article, we will review in detail the most frequently asked questions about impetigo, providing information based on reliable sources.

What is impetigo due to?

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection caused mainly by two types of bacteria: Staphylococcus Aureus and Streptococcus Pyogenes. These microorganisms can enter the epidermis through small skin lesions, such as scratches, insect bites, or any other small wound that may compromise the integrity of the skin.

Initially, signs are manifested by the appearance of small, fluid-filled blisters that can rupture, leaving characteristic honey-colored scabs. Infection can occur through direct contact with an infected person’s lesions or indirectly through contaminated objects. Moisture and heat can promote the spread of the bacteria, making summer and early fall high-risk periods for infection.

How long does impetigo last?

The duration can vary depending on the timeliness and effectiveness of treatment. Without medical intervention, lesions may persist for several weeks and, in some cases, may even worsen or spread to other parts of the body. With treatment, it usually regresses within 7 to 10 days.

It is important to note that the infection is highly contagious until the lesions begin to dry and form scabs. For this reason, early diagnosis and initiation of treatment are essential to speed healing and limit the spread of impetigo.

What are the symptoms?

Impetigo manifests itself through various symptoms, including:

  • The appearance of red-colored blisters filled with a serous fluid;
  • A sensation of itching;
  • Skin redness and inflammation in the areas near the nose, mouth and navel;
  • Due to itching and subsequent scratching, the blisters can rupture, leaving the skin vulnerable to further bacterial infection, potentially more serious than impetigo itself.

In negligent situations, for example, impetigo can progress leading to more severe symptoms such as those related to a Group A Beta Hemolytic Streptococcus (SBEGA) infection, which includes kidney complications.

How to stop it?

To stop impetigo and prevent its spread, it is essential to adhere to some simple but effective hygiene measures. First, it is crucial to keep infected areas clean, washing them thoroughly with soap and water and covering them with clean bandages to avoid direct contact with other people or objects.

In addition to personal hygiene, the doctor may prescribe a topical antibiotic, such as mupirocin, to be applied to the infected areas. This treatment, generally recommended for milder cases of impetigo, helps reduce the number of bacteria on the skin and promotes healing of the lesions. In any case, the choice of treatment for the specific case is always up to the pediatrician or primary care physician, and that is the figure you should hear from.

How many days of antibiotic for impetigo?

The mode of care varies depending on how promptly treatment is undertaken. A timely diagnosis of impetigo allows for a treatment approach that involves the application of Aluminum Chloride Astringent Gel to the affected areas. In case the infection has spread, the use of antibiotics taken orally becomes necessary.

It is essential, if the individual has been in contact with others who have been infected, that all individuals follow prophylaxis to extinguish a possible outbreak.

As before, your doctor will choose the treatment and give you the right instructions to follow. Do not rely on do-it-yourself methods.

When is impetigo contagious?

Impetigo is most contagious in the early stages, when the vesicles are still full of fluid, and remains so until scabs form. Once antibiotic treatment is started, the risk of contagion is significantly reduced within 24-48 hours.

To reduce the risk of infection, it is important to isolate the infected patient’s personal use items, such as towels and sheets, and wash them separately at high temperatures. Also, it is advisable to keep children home from school or daycare until treatment begins or until the lesions begin to heal, to avoid spreading disease to the nursery.

How do you tell if you have staphylococcus?

Staphylococcus, specifically Staphylococcus Aureus, is one of the main culprits of impetigo. Signs that may indicate the presence of a staph infection include the appearance of blisters, pustules, or areas of red, inflamed skin. These lesions may be painful and may secrete pus or other fluids.

To confirm the presence of staphylococcus, the physician may perform a skin swab to analyze the type of bacteria responsible for the infection. This step is crucial in deciding the course of treatment and in distinguishing impetigo from other skin conditions that may have similar symptoms.

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Pereira LB. Impetigo – review. An Bras Dermatol. 2014 Mar-Apr;89(2):293-9. doi: 10.1590/abd1806-4841.20142283. PMID: 24770507; PMCID: PMC4008061.

About the Author

Severino Cirillo

Health, Wellness and Education Expert. With a degree in Community Health, he is the CEO of Informed Parent and is responsible for validating the blog's scientific information and coordinating the editorial team of experts, consisting of gynecologists, midwives, psychotherapists, and others in pregnancy, perinatal, and parenting wellness and health.