Impetigo

Impetigo is a harmless, common childhood disease caused by bacteria in the skin. Dampness and heat increase the risk of impetigo. The disease usually lasts a couple of days.It usually starts as a little red spot that gradually fills with liquid. A yellow or greeny/brown scab will then form. Impetigo can be itchy. Good hand hygiene is the best form of prevention. Cover spots with a plaster to reduce the risk of infection.

Impetigo is a harmless, common childhood disease. It’s caused by bacteria in the skin (staphylococci or streptococci). Impetigo frequently occurs in children with eczema, because their skin is thin and more vulnerable, but any child can be infected. Dampness and heat increase the risk of impetigo. The disease usually lasts a couple of days.

The photo shows an example of impetigo.
Photo loaned by www.sundhed.dk and shows typical impetigo and localisation.

What does impetigo look like?

It usually starts as a little red spot that gradually fills with liquid. A yellow or greeny/brown scab will then form. Impetigo can be itchy. One special type of impetigo results in fluid-filled blisters, particularly in infants.

Is impetigo infectious?

Yes. Infection is transmitted via the fluid and scab, which contain bacteria. Because of the itching, it’s easy for a child to reinfect themself and others via skin contact and indirectly via objects such as towels. There is a risk of infection as long as the spots are weeping and have scabs.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will usually make a diagnosis based on the appearance of impetigo. In some cases, the doctor will take a sample from the spots to determine which bacteria type is the cause.

How is it treated?

Good hand hygiene is the best form of prevention. Cover spots with a plaster to reduce the risk of infection.

Mild outbreaks can be treated with soap and water and by applying chlorhexidine ointment, usually 3 times daily. Severe outbreaks can be treated with antibiotics in tablet or mixture form (with a prescription).

Kindergarten/daycare

Children in any form of daycare should be kept at home until the spots have dried out and the scabs have fallen off. School-aged children can attend school while they are undergoing treatment and the spots are covered.

Contact your doctor

If the treatment does not help within 3 days, contact your own doctor.

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