Impetigo - Complications 

Complications of impetigo 

Complications of impetigo are rare, but they can occur and occasionally be serious. Tell your GP if your symptoms change or get worse.

Some complications are described below.


Cellulitis occurs when the infection spreads to a deeper layer of skin. It can cause symptoms of red, inflamed skin and fever and pain. It can be treated with antibiotics and paracetamol can be used to relieve pain.

Guttate psoriasis

Guttate psoriasis is a non-infectious skin condition that can develop in children and teenagers after a bacterial infection. It is usually more common after a throat infection, but some cases have been linked to impetigo.

Guttate psoriasis causes small (less than 1cm) red, droplet-shaped, scaly patches on the chest, arms, legs and scalp. Creams can be used to control the symptoms.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is a rare bacterial infection that causes a fine, pink rash across the body. Associated symptoms of infection, such as nausea, pain and vomiting, are common. The condition is usually treated with antibiotics.

Scarlet fever is not usually serious but it is contagious. Therefore, it's important to isolate an infected child and avoid close physical contact. Keep your child away from school and other people until they have had at least five days of treatment with antibiotics.


Septicaemia (a type of sepsis) is a bacterial infection of the blood. It can cause symptoms of:

Septicaemia is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate treatment with antibiotics in hospital.

Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis

Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis is an infection of the small blood vessels in the kidneys. It's a very rare complication.

The symptoms of post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis include:

  • a change in the colour of your urine to a reddish-brown or cola colour
  • swelling of the abdomen
  • swelling of the face, eyes, feet and ankles
  • a rise in blood pressure
  • visible blood in the urine
  • a reduction in the amount of urine you would normally produce

People with post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis will usually require immediate hospital treatment so that their blood pressure can be carefully monitored and controlled.

Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis can be fatal in adults, although deaths in children are rare. Less than 1% of children die as a result of the condition.


In very rare cases, impetigo may lead to some scarring. However, this is more often the result of someone scratching at blisters, crusts or sores. The blisters and crusts themselves should not leave a scar if left to heal.

The red mark that is left should also disappear by itself. The time it takes for the redness to disappear can vary between a few days and a few weeks.

Page last reviewed: 25/04/2012

Next review due: 25/04/2014


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