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What to Know About the Impetigo Skin Infection

Impetigo (pic via Wikipedia)

by Asma Khan, MD, HRHCare Urgent Care, Nyack
No one likes a skin infection. Though you may not have heard of it, impetigo is a very contagious bacterial skin infection that is pretty common, especially in children. Impetigo is even sometimes called the “school disease,” as it can quickly spread from child to child in a classroom.
So, let’s dive into everything you need to know to stay impetigo free!

What is impetigo?

Impetigo is a bacterial infection on the outer layers of skin–most commonly on the face, arms, and legs. Children and infants are the most likely to get this infection, with impetigo accounting for about 10 percent of pediatric skin problems. The infection can begin any place there is broken skin–usually in a minor cut, insect bite, or a rash–but can also occur on healthy, unbroken skin in certain cases.


The most common symptoms of impetigo are reddish spots or sores on the skin, often clustered around the nose and lips. These spots can quickly grow into blisters that ooze and burst, and then form a yellow crust. After the crust phase, they leave red marks on the skin that will eventually fade without leaving scars. Infants can have a less-common type of impetigo, with larger blisters around the diaper area, or in skin folds.
The sores will be itchy, but try to avoid scratching them. When you touch the infected area, you are more likely to spread the infection to other parts of your body, as well as to any objects you touch.

How to prevent impetigo

The number one way to prevent impetigo is good hygiene.

  • Regular bathing and frequent handwashing cut down on skin bacteria
  • Cover any skin wound or insect bite
  • Keep nails clipped and clean
  • Don’t touch or scratch any open sores
  • Change bed linens and towels frequently
  • Clean and disinfect any surfaces or objects that may have come into contact with impetigo
  • Don’t share any personal items with someone who has impetigo

Impetigo: what you need to know

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection, but is cleared up easily with the right medication and good hygiene.
If you suspect you or your child has impetigo, get medical care immediately. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic that will speed up healing, and stop the spread of the infection. It’s likely that your doctor will be able to diagnose impetigo by its appearance, but he or she may also want to culture the bacteria.
In short, practice good hygiene, and steer clear of anyone who may have impetigo this school season. And when in doubt, remember to come see us at HRHCare Urgent Care Nyack!

Asma Khan, MD, is the Clinical Director at HRHCare Urgent Care, 84 N Highland Ave between High Street and Sickles Ave in Nyack. Along with offices in Haverstraw and Spring Valley, the facility is part of the 28 health center HRHCare network in the Hudson Valley and Long Island providing comprehensive primary care.

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