Can impetigo come back

10 Common Questions About Impetigo, Answered

7. Generally, How Long Will It Take for Impetigo to Go Away?

Impetigo will go away within a few weeks on its own. (6) A doctor might prescribe an antibiotic for 7 to 10 days, though you will likely see a response within 72 hours, Oza says.

8. Is Impetigo Contagious, and if So, How?

Yes, impetigo is contagious. (2) “If the child or infected person scratches or touches the sore and then touches a surface or a toy, other children can get it if they touch that same surface or toy,” Bisgard says. “For this reason, it spreads easily in day cares and schools.”

But that doesn’t mean everyone who comes into contact with the bacteria will contract impetigo. “We walk around living with staph and strep,” Dr. Shubin says. “It’s the break in the skin that makes the difference.”

An abrasion in the skin — such as a scrape or a bug bite — gives the bacteria an entry point, which can lead to infection. (2) The infection is no longer contagious 24 hours after starting an antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, however, it will remain contagious for several weeks. (7)

9. If You Suspect It’s Impetigo, at What Point Should You Call a Doctor?

Although impetigo can be confused with other skin conditions, going to see a doctor if you show symptoms can help ensure you get the right diagnosis. “It’s important to contact the doctor right away because an infected child typically needs treatment, and it’s contagious,” Bisgard says. You should visit a doctor if you see classic signs of impetigo.

10. How Can You Help Keep Impetigo From Spreading to Others?

In a very localized situation, apply mupirocin Bactroban, Centany), and cover the area with a bandage, Shubin suggests. “Keep it clean, protect it, and tell the kid to leave it alone,” Shubin says.

Shubin is also a fan of old-fashioned soap and water to help minimize spreading. Hand sanitizers should be okay, too, but children will likely be much more resistant to them. “There’s an abrasion in the skin already, and that’s going to sting,” Shubin says. “Kids are not going to let you do that very much.”

Parents should also keep the child’s fingernails trimmed. This will keep bacteria from getting under the nail and spreading when the child scratches other parts of the body. Other people in the household should also avoid sharing towels and sheets if one child has impetigo, and dirty laundry should be washed at a temperature of at least 140 degrees F. (3)

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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 24, 2019.

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Impetigo is a skin infection caused by bacteria. The infection can cause sores to form anywhere on your body. The sores develop watery or pus-filled blisters that break and form thick crusts. Impetigo is most common in children and spreads easily from person to person.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have painful, red, warm skin around the blisters.
  • Your face is swollen.
  • You urinate less than usual or there is blood in your urine.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • The sores become more red, swollen, warm, or tender.
  • The sores do not start to heal after 3 days of treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Antibiotics treat the bacterial infection. Antibiotics may be given as a pill or cream. Wash your skin and gently remove any crusts before you apply the antibiotic cream.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent the spread of impetigo:

  • Avoid direct contact. You can spread impetigo if someone touches or uses something that touched your infected skin. You can also spread impetigo on your own body when you touch the area and then touch somewhere else. Keep the sores covered with gauze so you will not scratch or touch them. Keep your fingernails short. Your child may need to wear mittens so he does not scratch his sores.
  • Wash your hands often. Always wash your hands after you touch the infected area. Wash your hands before you touch food, your eyes, or other people. If no water is available, use an alcohol-based gel to clean your hands.
  • Wash household items. Do not share or reuse items that have come in contact with impetigo sores. Examples include bedding, towels, washcloths, and eating utensils. These items may be used again after they have been washed with hot water and soap.

Clean your sores safely:

Wash your skin sores with antibacterial soap and water. You may need to do this 2 to 3 times each day until the sores heal. If the area is crusted, gently wash the sores with gauze or a clean washcloth to remove the crust. Pat the area dry with a clean towel. Wash your hands, the washcloth, and the towel after you clean the area around the sores.

Return to work or school:

You may return to work or school 48 hours after you start the antibiotic medicine. If your child has impetigo, tell his school or daycare center about the infection.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Impetigo: Diagnosis and treatment

How do dermatologists diagnose impetigo?

A dermatologist can often diagnose impetigo by looking at your skin.

Sometimes, lab tests are necessary to give you the diagnosis, or to get information necessary to treat you. If you need a lab test, a dermatologist often takes a sample from a blister on your skin. This can tell your dermatologist which bacteria are causing the infection.

If your dermatologist thinks that the infection could be widespread, you may need a blood test.

How do dermatologists treat impetigo?

An antibiotic usually cures impetigo.

Dermatologists often prescribe an antibiotic that you apply to the skin, such as mupirocin or retapamulin. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved retapamulin to treat impetigo in children as young as 9 months old. Mupirocin is FDA approved to treat people 12 years of age and older.

When necessary, a dermatologist may prescribe one of these medicines to treat a child younger than the FDA-approved age. This is called off-label use and is legal. It can also be very helpful.

If a dermatologist prescribes an antibiotic you apply to the skin, you would apply it to the skin with impetigo. If you have several outbreaks of impetigo, you may need to apply it inside the nostrils. The bacteria that cause impetigo often thrive in the nostrils.

Sometimes stronger medicine is necessary. Your dermatologist can prescribe an antibiotic that you take by mouth. A few patients need injections of an antibiotic.

Skin care also plays an important role in clearing impetigo. The following steps are often very helpful:

  1. Soak the skin with impetigo in warm water and soap to gently remove dirt and crusts

  2. Apply the antibiotic (or other medicine) as prescribed

  3. Cover the skin with impetigo to help it heal and prevent spreading the infection to others

If a child gets impetigo frequently, your dermatologist may recommend adding a small amount of bleach to the child’s bath. This is completely safe when you follow the directions. A bleach bath can reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin, which may prevent new infections.

Because impetigo is very contagious, a child may need to stay home from school for a few days. If this is necessary, your dermatologist will tell you when your child can return to school.

Teens and adults need not stay home, but they should take the following precautions to avoid infecting others:

  • Avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with others

  • Keep blisters and sores covered with gauze bandages and tape

  • Wash their hands after touching or treating infected skin

Your dermatologist can tell you how long to take these precautions.


Dermatologists recommend treating impetigo. It can help cure the impetigo and prevent others from getting this highly contagious skin infection.

With treatment, impetigo is usually no longer contagious within 24 to 48 hours.

Without treatment, impetigo often clears on its own in two to four weeks. During this time, there is a greater risk of developing complications. You may see new blisters and sores.

It’s also possible for the infection to go deeper into the skin if you don’t treat. If this happens, you can develop ecthyma. This infection goes deeper into the skin than impetigo. As the skin heals from ecthyma, scars can form.

Ecthyma is more common in children, the elderly, and people who have diabetes. It also develops in the homeless and combat soldiers fighting in a hot and humid climate.

If you see anything on your skin that looks infected, it’s best to see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible. An early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and help you feel better.

Craft, N, Lee PK, et al. “Superficial cutaneous infections and pyodermas.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1695-8.

Habif TP, Campbell, JL, et al. “Impetigo.” In: Dermatology DDxDeck. Mosby Elsevier, China, 2006: Card#46.

It’s been long thought that bacteria responsible for common illnesses – for example, colds, ear infections and strep throat – don’t survive for long outside the body. But a new study disagrees with this conventional wisdom. In a paper published in the January 2014 issue of Infection and Immunity, scientists report that bacteria can persist on surfaces, like furniture and toys, significantly longer than previously thought.

In a press release, the paper’s senior author, Anders Hakansson, at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said:

These findings should make us more cautious about bacteria in the environment since they change our ideas about how these particular bacteria are spread. This is the first paper to directly investigate that these bacteria can survive well on various surfaces, including hands, and potentially spread between individuals.

The culprit behind most ear and respiratory tract infections is Streptococcus pneumoniae. It’s often contracted in day care centers, and is a common source of infection in hospitals. In countries with little access to clean water, nutritious food, and antibiotic, Streptococcus pneumoniae is a significant threat, causing pneumonia and sepsis that kills about one million children each year. The other bacteria in the study, Streptococcus pyogenes , is often responsible for strep throat and skin infections.

A digitally enhanced image of Streptococcus pneumoniae in spinal fluid. Image via CDC/Dr. M.S. Mitchell.

A 900 times-magnified image of Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, extracted from pus. Image via CDC.

Hakansson noted:

Bacterial colonization doesn’t, by itself, cause infection but it’s a necessary first step if an infection is going to become established in a human host. Children, the elderly and others with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to these infections.

Past scientific research has claimed that the only way to contract an illness is by breathing in droplets carrying bacteria, released by coughing and sneezing from an infected person, because bacteria cannot survive for long outside the human body. However, experiments backing that view were done in environments that did not mimic real-world conditions.

The new findings, however, show that contact with the bacteria that cause these common illnesses may be happening more frequently than we realize. In a study conducted at a daycare center, toys tested positive for Streptococcus pneumoniae. Other surfaces, including cribs, were found to harbor Streptococcus pyogenes, even though some had earlier been cleaned. What’s surprising about these findings is that samples were collected just before the daycare opened for the day, indicating that the bacteria had survived overnight.

Contrary to what was believed previously, common bacteria that cause infections such as colds and strep throats can persist for long periods on surfaces like furniture and toys. This new knowledge may affect protocols at hospitals and daycares on how to reduce infections. Image via Flickr user Foto Jenny.

Hakansson and his colleagues first suspected that Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes might be tougher than we think while working on another research project. They were studying how bacteria create biofilms, a thin slimy film holding bacterial colonies, inside human tissue. The scientists observed that Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes biofilms were more complex and resilient compared to biofilms from other bacteria species.

Scanning electron microscope image of S. pneumonaie bacteria biofilm. The bacteria, oval-shaped structures, form a complex matrix that helps them survive harsh conditions outside the body and offers some resistance to antimicrobial chemicals. Image via Laura Marks.

They wondered, how long could these bacteria survive outside the body? The findings at the daycare proved that these bacteria remain viable for many hours after contaminating a surface. In subsequent experiments, they pushed the limits even farther, showing that Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes biofilms as old as one month could colonize mice that came in contact with it.

Hakansson explained:

Since discovering that biofilms are key to the pathogenesis of S. pneumonaie, we wanted to find out how well biofilm bacteria survive outside the body. In all of these cases, we found that these pathogens can survive for long periods outside a human host.

Commonly handled objects that are contaminated with these biofilm bacteria could act as reservoirs of bacteria for hours, weeks or months, spreading potential infections to individuals who come in contact with them.

He cautioned that these results required further study to better characterize how infections occur due to contact with bacteria that had been on a surface for long periods.

Hakansson continued:

If it turns out that this type of spread is substantial, then the same protocols that are now used for preventing the spread of other bacteria, such as intestinal bacteria and viruses, which do persist on surfaces, will need to be implemented especially for people working with children and in health-care settings.

Bottom line: Contrary to what was believed previously, common bacteria that cause infections such as the cold and strep throat – including Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes – can persist for long periods on surfaces like furniture and toys. The biofilm, a thin slimy layer holding these bacteria colonies, is tough enough to preserve the bacteria outside the body for hours, even days. Further studies are needed to figure out how easy it is to become infected by these germs. The new knowledge may affect protocols at hospitals and daycares on how to reduce infections.

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Impetigo VS Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

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Does your child have sores on or in his mouth. This post will focus on Impetigo vs Hand Foot and Mouth Disease to help you decipher exactly what your child has.

So the other day, my one-year-old came down with a fever. At first I thought he was teething or had a cold. However, right after his fever broke, tiny little sores started to appear around his mouth and on his hands and feet. Earlier that week he had been playing with his cousin who came down with Impetigo (a contagious infection of the skin). So, I figured that he had caught it from him.

Well, I was wrong. After talking to the nurse at his pediatrician’s office, it turns out he had Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)! Both illness have some similarities and some differences. And both are fairly common among toddlers and babies. Listed below are some ways to recognize illnesses and how to treat them.

My little squirt who got HFMD. The separate photo shows where the sores developed near his mouth.

Recognize the symptoms

Hand, foot and mouth disease: It usually starts with a fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and a feeling of being unwell. One or two days after the fever starts, painful sores can develop in the mouth. The mouth sores begin, often in the back of the mouth, as small red spots that blister and can become ulcers. A skin rash with red spots, and sometimes with blisters, may also develop over one or two days on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; it may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Impetigo: It is a common and highly contagious skin infection that mainly affects infants and children. Impetigo usually appears as red sores on the face, especially around a child’s nose and mouth, and on hands and feet. The sores burst and develop honey-colored crusts, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Comparing both illnesses: After simply talking to the nurse over the phone, she knew my son had HFMD because he had sore INSIDE his mouth. Impetigo only produces sores on the skin itself. Also, since my son had a fever, that was also a big indication that it was NOT IMPETIGO. Also, since the sores were concentrated on the feet, hand, and mouth, that was a big indication of HFMD and not Impetigo.

Sores on my son’s toes from HFMD (left). A large sore from Impetigo behind the knee of my nephew (right).

How to treat impetigo vs hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease: Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for this disease. You’ll just have to let it ride its course. However, you can give your child some over-the-counter pain reliever and sprays for the mouth to numb the pain according to the CDC. The nurse from my pediatrician’s office recommended Mylanta to soothe the pain as well. My sister is big on essential oils and she recommended some Melaleuca oil for his mouth. I didn’t try that but might be a good option.

Impetigo: The good news is Impetigo typically is treated with an antibiotic ointment or cream that you apply directly to the sores. You may need to first soak the affected area in warm water or use wet compresses to help remove the scabs so the antibiotic can penetrate the skin according to the Mayo Clinic.

If you have more than just a few impetigo sores, your doctor might recommend antibiotic drugs that can be taken by mouth. Be sure to finish the entire course of medication even if the sores are healed. This helps prevent the infection from recurring and makes antibiotic resistance less likely.

Check out these websites

I hope the above information was helpful. Since I am not a medical professional I recommend consulting a medical professional before diagnosing or treating any illness. The websites below provide additional information about these two specific illnesses.

  • Impetigo overview including treatment, prevention and symptoms and causes.
  • Hand, foot and mouth disease overview including treatment, prevention and symptoms and causes.

You can also print this FREE HANDOUT – Impetigo vs. Hand foot and mouth disease.

Have you had any experiences with these illnesses? Leave your comments below. Thanks!

What is Impetigo?

Impetigo is a common and highly contagious skin infection that mainly affects infants and children and is predominantly caused by two bacteria – Group A Streptococcus and Staphylococcus Aureus. Impetigo usually appears as red sores on the face, especially around a child’s nose and mouth, and on hands, arms, legs and feet. For this reason, impetigo can be confused with hand-foot-and-mouth disease. This infection often piggybacks on other skin rashes or irritation areas.

Classic signs and symptoms of impetigo involve red sores that quickly rupture, ooze for a few days and then form a yellowish-brown crust. The sores usually occur around the nose and mouth but can be spread to other areas of the body by fingers, clothing and towels. Itching and soreness are generally mild.

Factors that increase the risk of impetigo include:

  • Impetigo most commonly occurs in children ages 2 to 5, but older children and adults can be affected.
  • Impetigo spreads easily at schools and child care settings.
  • Impetigo infections are more common in summer.
  • Participation in sports that involve skin-to-skin contact, such as football or wrestling, increases your risk of developing impetigo.
  • The bacteria that cause impetigo often enter your skin through a small skin injury, insect bite or rash.

Keeping skin clean is the best way to keep it healthy. To help prevent impetigo from spreading to others, it’s important to wash cuts, scrapes, insect bites and other wounds right away.

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