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  • Impetigo – Infected Sores


    • Coin-shaped sores on the skin
    • Covered by scabs or crusts that are the color of honey
    • Skin infection caused by a bacteria


    • Sores smaller than 1 inch (2.5 cm)
    • Often covered by a soft, yellow-brown scab or crust
    • Scabs may drain pus or yellow fluid off and on
    • Starts as small red bumps. These change quickly to cloudy blisters or pimples. Then, they become open sores which drain fluid or pus.
    • Sores increase in size
    • Any sore or wound that grows and doesn’t heal is usually impetigo.


    • A skin infection caused by a bacteria. It starts in a small break in the skin. Examples are a scratch or insect bite.
    • The most common bacteria are Staph and Strep.
    • Impetigo often spreads and increases in number from scratching.

    Return to School

    • For mild impetigo (1 or 2 sores), can go back if sores are covered.
    • For severe impetigo, child needs to take an oral antibiotic more than 24 hours. Then your child can go back to school.

    When to Call Us for Impetigo – Infected Sores

    Call Us Now (night or day) If:

    • Your child looks or acts very sick
    • Pink or tea-colored urine
    • Fever and spreading redness around the impetigo
    • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

    Call Us Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If:

    • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
    • Spreading redness around the impetigo and no fever
    • Fever or sore throat are present
    • Sore is larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm) across
    • Sores and crusts inside the nose
    • Impetigo gets worse after 48 hours on antibiotic ointment

    Call Us During Weekday Office Hours If:

    • You have other questions or concerns
    • Impetigo in 2 or more children (such as siblings or play groups)
    • Child plays contact sports (Reason: to prevent spread)
    • 3 or more impetigo sores (Reason: May need an oral antibiotic. Many of these children also have a Strep throat.)
    • Not healed up after 1 week on antibiotic ointment

    Parent Care at Home If:

    • Mild impetigo (1 or 2 sores that started with a scratch or insect bite)

    Care Advice for Mild Impetigo

    What You Should Know:

    • Impetigo is a skin infection. Most often, it starts in a scratch or insect bite.
    • It usually responds to treatment with any antibiotic ointment.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.

    Remove Scabs:

    • Soak off the scab using soap and warm water. The bacteria live underneath the scab.

    Antibiotic Ointment:

    • Put an antibiotic ointment on the sores. Do this 3 times per day.
    • Examples are Bacitracin or Polysporin. No prescription is needed. You also can use one you already have.
    • Cover it with a Band-Aid to prevent scratching and spread.
    • Repeat the washing, ointment and Band-Aid 3 times per day.

    Do Not Pick at the Sores:

    • Help your child not to scratch and pick at the sores. This spreads the impetigo.

    Return to School:

    • Impetigo is spread to others by skin to skin contact.
    • Wash the hands often. Try not to touch the sores.
    • For mild impetigo (1 or 2 sores), can go to school if it is covered.
    • For severe impetigo, child needs to take an oral antibiotic for more than 24 hours. Then your child can go back to school.
    • Contact Sports. In general, needs to be on antibiotics for 3 days before returning to sports. There must be no pus or drainage. Check with the team’s trainer if there is one.

    What to Expect:

    • Sore stops growing in 1 to 2 days.
    • The skin is healed in 1 week.

    Call Your Doctor If:

    • Impetigo sore gets bigger after 48 hours on antibiotic ointment
    • Gets new impetigo sore on antibiotic ointment
    • Not healed up in 1 week
    • Your child becomes worse

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Copyright 1994-2013 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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