Impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection which causes sores and blisters. It's very common and affects mainly children.

There are two types of impetigo:

  • bullous impetigo, which causes large, painless, fluid-filled blisters  
  • non-bullous impetigo, which is more contagious than bullous impetigo and causes sores that quickly rupture (burst) to leave a yellow-brown crust

Read more about the symptoms of impetigo.

Impetigo that affects otherwise healthy skin is referred to as primary impetigo. If the infection is the result of another underlying skin condition, such as atopic eczema, it's referred to as secondary impetigo.

Read more information about the causes of impetigo.

Should I see my GP?

Speak to your GP if you or your child has symptoms of impetigo. Impetigo is not usually serious, but it can sometimes be confused with other skin conditions such as cellulitiscontact dermatitis and insect bites.

Your GP may want to rule these out.

Read more about diagnosing impetigo.

Treating impetigo

Impetigo usually gets better on its own, without the need for treatment, within two to three weeks. However, antibiotic creams are usually recommended because the infection spreads easily.

Most people are no longer contagious after 48 hours of treatment, or once their sores have dried and healed.

To minimise the risk of impetigo spreading, it's also advisable to:

  • avoid touching the sores
  • wash your hands regularly 
  • not share flannels, sheets or towels
  • keep children off nursery, playgroup or school until their sores have dried up

Read more about treating impetigo and preventing the spread of impetigo.

Who is affected

Impetigo usually affects children. This is due to environments, such as schools and nurseries, where the infection can easily be spread.

Impetigo can also affect adults, especially when people are living in a confined environment, such as an army barracks.

Non-bullous impetigo is the most common type of impetigo, accounting for more than 70% of cases.


Complications of impetigo tend to be rare. However, sometimes the infection can spread to the lymph nodes (lymphadenitis), or to a deeper layer of skin (cellulitis).

Page last reviewed: 25/04/2012

Next review due: 25/04/2014


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The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

cstan said on 18 December 2012

I have suffered from impetigo and skin conditions for years. Have tried using fucidin and oral antibiotics but after lots of research bought from local health store anti fungal lotion. Inexpensive and natural...changed my life so far all cleared up within a week of use.

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beccaleccahigh said on 07 May 2012

Lulu- I have had a skin condition for a year that sounds very similar, might actually be an evil combination. It started as tiny blisters that burst, cracked and itched so bad, it woke me up at night. I finally found an over the counter antifungal that cleared it up. I cut sugar out of my diet while I was taking it and now have only one tiny patch that I am clearing up on my 3rd round of the antifungal- the antifungal is called "fungal defense" made by Garden of LIfe. I hope this helps. Feeling for you- hope you find relief.

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lulu71 said on 29 March 2012

for over 2 years i have suffered with impetigo and i cant take it anymore its destroying my life. i have had creams and antibiotics that seem to work but within 2 weeks of finishing the course its back. at the moment i am half way through a 3 month supply of antibiotics and its flared up worse than it ever has. its all over my face, on my lips my arms and legs my chest and both feet and even my nails both hands and toe nails. i cant cope anymore if i am begging for HELP.

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clphanfrmi said on 14 December 2011

To Jamb0ree: If your condition keeps recurring. I would suggest you see a doctor because with the correct treatment, Impetigo does not keep recurring. This article says that if it does not respond to treatment (and this means not come back), you may have another skin condition. Adults do not usually get Impetigo anyway.

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Jamb0ree said on 02 October 2011

I've suffered with episodes of impetigo for some time now and found that tea tree oil is really effective. For me this is much more effective than any prescribed antibiotics or cream, plus you can treat it straight away rather than waiting to see a doctor - by which time its probably twice the size!

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Coulls said on 02 August 2010

Quote: "where bacteria enters skin that is otherwise health - for example"...

Someone should change that to "healthy" on the next review.

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