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Alternative Names 
school sores

Impetigo(im-pa-tay-go) is a bacterial infection on the surface of the skin, characterised by honey coloured crusts and mild sores.

What is going on in the body? 
Staphylococcal (staff-ill-o-cock-al) and streptococcal (strep-toe-cock-al) organisms are common on the skin. Warm temperatures, high humidity and an existing skin disease can lead to overgrowth. This overgrowth infects the skin surface creating sores, crusting and oozing.

What are the signs and symptoms of the infection? 
Signs and symptoms of impetigo include:
  • honey coloured crusted sores on the skin surface.
  • pus filled blisters.
  • blisters containing clear yellow or slightly cloudy fluid.

What are the causes and risks of the infection? 
Scratches, cuts or prior existing skin disease such as eczema put a person at risk for impetigo.

What can be done to prevent the infection? 
  • Benzoyl peroxide soap may be helpful for people who experience repeated bouts of impetigo.
  • Treat contacts quickly and adequately
How is the infection diagnosed? 
The condition is diagnosed by a healthcare professional based on the appearance of the skin, although cultures may be necessary.

What are the long-term effects of the infection? 
Impetigo may progress to deeper skin ulcers and can spread over large areas of skin. Certain streptococcal organisms also cause kidney disease.

What are the risks to others? 
Impetigo is highly contagious.

What are the treatments for the infection? 
Treatments for impetigo include oral and/or topical antibiotics, such as cephalexin, flucloxacillin, dicloxacillin, or mupirocin.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Side effects relate to the antibiotic used and may include nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness or allergic reactions.

Author: Lynn West, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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