Impetigo is the most common, contagious skin infection that usually affects your neck, face, and hands. It is seen mostly in children and infants who wear diapers. Although it also occurs rarely in adults, it is not a serious condition. It heals in a week of treatment or may take few weeks without treatment.

Types of impetigo

There are different types of impetigo which have different signs and symptoms.

Impetigo contagiosa Bullous impetigo Ecthyma
This is the most common type of impetigo that occurs in children. This type of impetigo is mostly seen in children under age two. This type of impetigo is considered as the most serious type, as it affects the second layer of the skin rather than the superficial layer.
It is also called nonbullous impetigo and is very contagious. The symptoms are presented on torso, arms and legs as blisters which are usually clear and turn cloudy. In ecthyma, the blisters tend to be more painful and turn into ulcers, or open sores. It may also leave scars.
This type presents with the symptoms such as red sores around the nose and mouth. These blisters tend to last for longer periods compared to other types of impetigo.
The blisters burst out and leave a red rash which may be itchy but not painful. Slowly the areas around the blisters may be red and itchy.


Impetigo is mainly caused by two types of bacteria, Streptococcus pyrogens, and Staphylococcus aureus. This skin infection occurs most likely in warm and humid conditions. As it is a contagious infection, it spreads by close contact.

Risk factors

Advancing age, broken skin, skin to skin contact, crowded conditions, humid and warm climate increase your risk of impetigo.


The symptoms of impetigo make you feel embarrassed, and uncomfortable if they are on the face. More or less the symptoms are similar for all the types of impetigo, which includes:

  • Lesions on the skin
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Rashes that cause itching
  • Swelling near the lymph nodes
  • Red sores, leaving a yellow crust


Impetigo is not a dangerous infection; mild sores due to infection heal without any scarring. Complications of impetigo include:

Cellulitis: Cellulitis is a life-threatening condition. This affects the tissues below your skin and may spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream as well.

Kidney problems: Impetigo may cause damage to your kidneys.

Scarring: The ulcers that are associated with ecthyma can retain scars on the skin.


Your doctor would most probably diagnose impetigo by looking at the symptoms on your skin. Sometimes your doctor may extract a small piece of a sore and sends it to the lab for examining the presence of bacteria. If you have other signs of illness, your doctor may order for further diagnostic tests such as blood or urine.


Impetigo is not a severe skin infection; it can get better within two or three weeks without any treatment. Although, treatment is often recommended as it reduces the length of illness for around seven to 10 days. Treatment helps in reducing the risk of the infection spreading to others. Your doctor would prescribe antibiotic creams or oral medications, which must be used for about a week.


It is important to take safety precautions to reduce the risk of impetigo spreading to others. The following tips help prevent the spread of the infection.

  • You must avoid touching or scratching the sores.
  • You must wash your hands frequently, especially after touching infected skin.
  • You must avoid sharing personal items such as towels or sheets with the infected person.
  • You must wash the sores with soap and water and apply gauze bandage loosely.