Is Your Child Sick?TM

Impetigo - Infected Sores

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Coin-shaped sores on the skin
  • Covered by scabs or crusts that are the color of honey
  • Skin infection caused by a bacteria

If NOT, try one of these:


Symptoms of Impetigo

  • Sores smaller than 1 inch (2.5 cm)
  • Often covered by a soft, yellow-brown scab or crust
  • Scabs may drain pus or yellow fluid off and on
  • Starts as small red bumps. These change quickly to cloudy blisters or pimples. Then, they become open sores which drain fluid or pus.
  • Sores increase in size
  • Any sore or wound that grows and doesn't heal is usually impetigo.

Cause of Impetigo

  • A skin infection caused by a bacteria. It starts in a small break in the skin. Examples are a scratch or insect bite.
  • The most common bacteria are Staph and Strep. If the child has a sore throat, they may also have Strep throat. A rapid Strep test will give the answer.
  • Impetigo often spreads and increases in number from scratching.

When to Call for Impetigo - Infected Sores

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Pink or tea-colored urine
  • Fever and spreading redness around the impetigo
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Spreading redness around the impetigo and no fever
  • Fever or sore throat are present
  • Sore is larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm) across
  • Sores and crusts inside the nose
  • Impetigo gets worse after 48 hours on antibiotic ointment
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Impetigo in 2 or more children (such as siblings or play groups)
  • Child plays contact sports (Reason: to prevent spread)
  • 3 or more impetigo sores (Reason: May need an oral antibiotic. Many of these children also have a Strep throat)
  • Not healed up after 1 week on antibiotic ointment
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mild impetigo (1 or 2 sores that started with a scratch or insect bite)

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Pink or tea-colored urine
  • Fever and spreading redness around the impetigo
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Spreading redness around the impetigo and no fever
  • Fever or sore throat are present
  • Sore is larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm) across
  • Sores and crusts inside the nose
  • Impetigo gets worse after 48 hours on antibiotic ointment
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Impetigo in 2 or more children (such as siblings or play groups)
  • Child plays contact sports (Reason: to prevent spread)
  • 3 or more impetigo sores (Reason: May need an oral antibiotic. Many of these children also have a Strep throat)
  • Not healed up after 1 week on antibiotic ointment
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mild impetigo (1 or 2 sores that started with a scratch or insect bite)

Care Advice for Impetigo

  1. What You Should Know About Impetigo:
    • Impetigo is a skin infection. Most often, it starts in a scratch or insect bite.
    • It usually responds to treatment with any antibiotic ointment.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Remove Scabs:
    • Soak off the scab using soap and warm water. The bacteria live underneath the scab.
  3. Antibiotic Ointment:
    • Put an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin) on the sores. No prescription is needed. You can also use one you already have.
    • Do this 3 times per day.
    • Cover it with a bandage (such as Band-Aid) to prevent scratching and spread.
    • Repeat the washing, ointment and dressing 3 times per day.
  4. Do Not Pick at the Sores:
    • Help your child not to scratch and pick at the sores. This spreads the impetigo.
  5. Return to School:
    • Impetigo is spread to others by skin to skin contact.
    • Wash the hands often. Try not to touch the sores.
    • For mild impetigo (1 or 2 sores), can go to school if it is covered.
    • For severe impetigo, child needs to take an oral antibiotic for more than 24 hours. Then your child can go back to school.
    • Contact Sports. In general, needs to be on antibiotics for 3 days before returning to sports. There must be no pus or drainage. Check with the team's trainer if there is one.
  6. What to Expect:
    • Sore stops growing in 1 to 2 days.
    • The skin is healed in 1 week.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Impetigo sore gets bigger after 48 hours on antibiotic ointment
    • Gets new impetigo sore on antibiotic ointment
    • Not healed up in 1 week
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


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