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eMed previously Babylon Health


Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 24th April 2019

Impetigo is a very common skin infection that can cause sores and blisters. The condition is caused by bacteria entering the skin, usually through a cut or a break in the skin, like after an insect bite. Impetigo is extremely contagious, and is most common in young people, though anyone can develop the condition.

Symptoms are not always obvious initially and this can mean the infection is spread to others unintentionally. Impetigo can be painful and irritating, as well as causing embarrassment for those with sores and blisters on their face or neck. If you or your child is suffering from impetigo, speak to a GP today.

Causes of impetigo

Impetigo is the result of the skin becoming infected with certain bacteria. The bacteria can enter the skin through a cut or a graze, or it can infect skin which has been damaged by another skin condition such as scabies or eczema. Impetigo is highly infectious and can be spread very easily through physical contact with someone who has been infected.

Children of school age are very susceptible to impetigo as they spend much of their time in close proximity with other youngsters who may not yet have symptoms. People with weakened immune systems due to other medical conditions are also more susceptible.

Symptoms of impetigo

Impetigo causes sores and blisters that ooze and weep. They usually appear on the face, but can also occur on the arms and legs. Eventually, the blisters will burst and begin to crust, which is a sign that they’re healing. The infection should subside within days. Like any infection, impetigo can cause other side-effects, including a mild fever and swollen glands.

Treatment for impetigo

Impetigo doesn’t always require treatment - it will heal on its own eventually. However, because the condition is highly contagious, many people will naturally want to speed up the healing process in any way they can. A doctor may be able to prescribe or recommend an antibacterial cream.

During the healing process, it’s important to take precautions that will prevent the infection from spreading. If you have impetigo, don’t share clothes, bedding or towels with anyone else. Avoid preparing food, try not to touch the blisters at all, and wash your hands regularly to reduce the risk of passing impetigo to other family members. If you’re concerned about impetigo and would like a doctor’s verdict, speak to a GP today.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.