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Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the top layers of the skin and is most common among children ages 2 to 6 years.

It causes blistering and sores. It usually starts when the bacteria get into a cut, scratch, or insect bite.

Impetigo is caused by staphylococcus (staph) or group A streptococcus. Skin infections are usually caused by different types (strains) of strep bacteria than those that cause strep throat.

Symptoms of impetigo

Symptoms start with red or pimple-like lesions (sores) surrounded by reddened skin. These lesions can be anywhere on your body, but mostly on your face, arms, and legs. Lesions fill with pus, then break open after a few days and form a thick crust. Itching is common. Your health care provider can diagnose the infection by looking at the skin lesions.

Transmission of impetigo

The infection is spread by direct contact with wounds or sores or nasal discharge from an infected person. Scratching may spread the lesions. From the time of infection until you show symptoms is usually 1 to 3 days. If your skin doesn't have breaks in it, you can't be infected by dried streptococci in the air.

Treatment for impetigo

Your health care provider will prescribe oral antibiotics, as with strep throat. This treatment may also include an antibiotic ointment to be used on your skin.


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