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Facts About...


What is it?

Impetigo is an infection of the skin, most commonly found around cold sores, the mouth and the nose, caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria. These bacteria can cause skin infections that occur when the skin has been injured by a scrape or insect bite, most often in the summer.

How is it spread?

The bacteria are spread when someone touches or scratches an impetigo rash, or their nose if they are carriers, and then touches another person. Occasionally it may be spread by coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread on bed linens, towels or clothing that have been in contact with infected skin.

What do I look for?

Impetigo usually appears around the mouth, nose or on exposed skin of the face or limbs. Symptoms include a cluster of red bumps or blisters which may then ooze a clear fluid or become covered by an itchy, honey-coloured crust. Clusters are usually uncomplicated but if widespread, fever, malaise, headache and loss of appetite may occur. If the infection enters the bloodstream it may cause serious complications.

How is it treated?

Your doctor can treat impetigo with antibiotics. If the impetigo is caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria, children should stay home from school or day care until 24 hours after treatment has been started. For other bacterial skin infections children should be excluded only if they have a draining wound or lesions that can’t be kept covered. Cover lesions with gauze; soiled dressings should be deposited in a tied plastic bag.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands, especially after touching/scratching the rash and/or your nose or changing the dressing.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizers when hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Soiled articles should be washed in soapy water.
  • Toys, equipment and commonly touched surfaces should be disinfected. Make sure skin care products such as soaps, toothbrushes and unwashed towels are not shared.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow and encourage others to do the same.
  • If you are ill, stay at home and isolate yourself from others.
January 22, 2014