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What Does Impetigo Look Like?


A common infection called impetigo is not serious in most cases and generally infects children but can infect adults, too. It can be painless or uncomfortable but usually always bothersome for the sufferer. Impetigo sometimes piggybacks on other skin irritations, causing laymen to contribute its occurrence to other causes.


While it can appear anywhere on the body, impetigo usually manifests around the nose and mouth where skin is often irritated from head colds or the flu. From mild to rare serious stages, impetigo’s symptomology rarely deviates, depending on which bacterium causes the condition. One type begins with blotchy patches with a rash-like presentation. The tiny red spots eventually enlarge into sores, which is where the commonalities begin.

All impetigo sores, regardless of cause or location, are generally not painful but are often itchy, and:

  • Are red and filled with puss or liquid.
  • Change appearance to blisters.
  • Are easily broken. (In infants, the broken sores leave reddish or rust-colored base spots.)
  • Burst (if not broken) and ooze viscous fluids.
  • Look crusty after leaking.
  • Often appear honey-colored or slightly darker.
  • May form a crust-like covering.
  • May cause swelling if near a lymph node.
  • In serious cases, are painful and evolve into deep ulcers.


In all cases, impetigo can be treated in two ways:

  1. Hygiene: Wash hands and face often with soft cloths, warm water, and non-abrasive, anti-bacterial soap. Use a new cloth and towel each time to prevent using contaminated linen, and launder them before next use. Use clean utensils, dishes, and cookware. Never share or reuse before washing thoroughly. Keep living areas clean to minimize the risk of accidental transfer.
  2. Medication: Always wash hands and face both before and after applying a topical antibiotic ointment. (Confer with a physician to determine if an over-the-counter ointment may suffice or if a prescription ointment is required.) If the ointment does not work, the physician may prescribe oral antibiotics, which should be taken until the prescription is gone, even if the sores disappear.

The liquid in the sores is highly contagious. However, the threat of passing on the infection should expire within 48 hours of starting antibiotics treatment. If the condition is responding well, the impetigo should be cured in approximately a week.

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