When Your Child Has Impetigo 

Closeup of mouth showing sores near lips and around nose.

Impetigo often starts in a broken area of the skin. It looks like a rash with small, red bumps or blisters. The rash may also be itchy. The bumps or blisters often pop open, becoming open sores. The sores then crust or scab over. This can give them a yellow or gold appearance.

How is impetigo diagnosed?

Impetigo is usually diagnosed by how it looks. To get more information, the healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. Your child will also be examined. If needed, fluid from the infected skin can be tested (cultured) for bacteria.

How is impetigo treated?

Impetigo generally goes away within 7 days with treatment. Antibiotic ointment is prescribed for mild cases. Before applying the ointment, wash your hands first with warm water and soap. Then, gently clean the infected skin and apply the ointment. Wash your hands afterward.

Ask the healthcare provider if there are any over-the-counter medicines appropriate for treating your child. In some cases, your child will take prescribed antibiotics by mouth. Your child should take ALL the medicine until it is gone, even if he or she starts feeling better.

Call the healthcare provider if your child has any of the following:

  • Fever rises above 104°F (40°C) repeatedly for a child of any age

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child younger than age 2, or for 3 days in a child age 2 years or older

  • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Symptoms that do not improve within 48 hours of starting treatment

  • Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever

How is impetigo prevented?

Follow these steps to keep your child from passing impetigo on to others:

  • Cut your child’s fingernails short to discourage scratching the infected skin.

  • Teach your child to wash his or her hands with soap and warm water often.

  • Wash your child’s bed linens, towels, and clothing daily until the infection goes away.

Handwashing is especially important before eating or handling food, after using the bathroom, and after touching the infected skin.