Impetigo - Symptoms 

Symptoms of impetigo 

Non-bullous impetigo typically causes sores and crusts to develop around the nose and mouth 

Impetigo does not cause any symptoms until four to 10 days after you first become infected. This means that people can easily pass the infection on to others without realising it.

There are two main types of impetigo, known as non-bullous and bullous impetigo, which have different symptoms. Most people with impetigo have the non-bullous type.

The symptoms of non-bullous and bullous impetigo are described below.

Non-bullous impetigo

The symptoms of non-bullous impetigo begin with the appearance of red sores – usually around the nose and mouth but other areas of the face and the limbs can also be affected.

The sores quickly burst leaving behind thick, golden crusts typically around 2cm across. The appearance of these crusts is sometimes likened to cornflakes stuck to the skin.

After the crusts dry, they leave a red mark that usually heals without scarring. The time it takes for the redness to disappear can vary between a few days and a few weeks.

The sores are not painful, but they may be itchy. It is important not to touch, or scratch, the sores because this can spread the infection to other parts of your body, and to other people.

Other symptoms, such as a high temperature (fever) and swollen glands, are rare but can occur in more severe cases.

Bullous impetigo

The symptoms of bullous impetigo begin with the appearance of fluid-filled blisters (bullae) which usually occur on the trunk (the central part of the body between the waist and neck) or on the arms and legs. The blisters are usually about 1-2cm across.

The blisters may quickly spread, before bursting after several days to leave a yellow crust that usually heals without leaving any scarring.

The blisters may be painful and the area of skin surrounding them may be itchy. As with non-bullous impetigo, it is important that you do not touch or scratch the affected areas of the skin.

Symptoms of fever and swollen glands are more common in cases of bullous impetigo.

When to seek medical advice

Most cases of impetigo will heal within two or three weeks without treatment, but you should still see your GP if you think you or your child may have the condition.

This is because the symptoms can be similar to more serious skin conditions and treatment can resolve the condition more quickly, as well as reduce the chances of the infection being spread to others.

Your GP will normally be able to diagnose impetigo by carrying out a simple examination of your skin.




Page last reviewed: 17/07/2014

Next review due: 17/07/2016

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