What is impetigo?
Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection. It’s especially common in children, but anyone can get it. It is very contagious, but not usually serious, and gets better within 7 to 10 days with the appropriate treatment.
It usually appears as red sores, typically on the face, hands and other exposed areas. It spreads through direct contact, so it is better to seek treatment as soon as possible to reduce the chance of it becoming more extensive or spreading to other people.
What are the symptoms of impetigo?
The symptoms of impetigo can include:
- Red sores and blisters – these sores can be small or large and are often filled with fluid or pus.
- Honey-coloured crust – after the blisters burst they typically leave behind a honey-coloured crust. This is sometimes described as looking like cornflakes attached to the skin.
- Itching – impetigo sores can be itchy, causing discomfort and a strong urge to scratch the affected area.
- Pain and tenderness – in some cases, the sores may be painful or tender to touch, especially if they become larger.
- High temperature and swollen glands – these symptoms sometimes occur in more severe cases.
There are two types of impetigo: non-bullous and bullous. Non-bullous impetigo tends to be more common than bullous impetigo.
Non-bullous impetigo is characterised by red sores, which can be very itchy, appearing around the nose and mouth, although other parts of the face and limbs can also be affected. These soon burst and honey-coloured crusts develop which dry out. The red sore areas gradually heal over the following days or weeks.
This type of impetigo starts with fluid-filled blisters, usually on the body between the waist and neck or on the limbs. The blisters can be quite large, often 1 to 2cm in diameter. Blisters can spread and then after a few days they burst to produce a yellow crust. The crusts dry and the blisters heal thereafter. The blisters might be painful and the area around them can be itchy. People with bullous impetigo are more likely to have a high temperature or swollen glands.
What causes impetigo?
Impetigo is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes.
These bacteria can enter healthy skin more easily if the skin is damaged or broken, such as when there are small cuts, insect bites or injuries, and scratching an itchy area can introduce the bacteria. Skin is also more prone to impetigo if there is an existing skin condition such as eczema, dermatitis, or a head lice infection.
The bacteria spread easily from one area of skin to another and from person to person by coming into contact with someone that already has impetigo or by touching contaminated items, such as towels.
The other risk factors for impetigo are:
- Age – impetigo is more common in children, especially in school-aged children who may come into close contact with infected individuals.
- Overcrowded or unsanitary living conditions – impetigo is more likely to occur in situations where people are in close quarters or have limited access to good hygiene practices.
- A weakened immune system – for example, people who are receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
How to prevent the spread of impetigo
Practising good hygiene habits is essential when it comes to preventing the spread of impetigo. This includes:
- Not touching or scratching the affected area of skin
- Washing the sores with soap and water, and drying thoroughly before covering them loosely with a dressing or clothing
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water
- Washing towels, sheets and clothing at a high temperature
- Cleaning toys, if your children are infected
- Avoiding the gym and contact sports
- Avoiding contact with vulnerable people such as those with immunosuppression or diabetes, and newborn babies.
Impetigo stops being contagious 48 hours after you start using medical treatment, or when the sores/blisters dry out and crust over (if you do not get treatment).
How to treat impetigo
Impetigo usually gets better by itself in around two to three weeks without any treatment. However, treatment is often recommended as it can clear up the infection quicker, in around seven to 10 days. Treating the condition can also help lower the risk of the infection spreading to others.
Once impetigo has been confirmed, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Mild cases of impetigo that cover a small area are usually treated with an antiseptic or antibiotic cream. Antibiotic tablets may be prescribed for more severe, widespread cases, or if an antibiotic cream doesn’t work.
Why visit your local Day Lewis Pharmacy to treat impetigo?
If you suspect impetigo, speak to your local Day Lewis Pharmacist for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Our team of highly trained, experienced pharmacists will be able to assess your symptoms to recommend a suitable impetigo cream over-the-counter or a prescription-strength medication to help clear up the infection via the NHS Pharmacy First Service.
So why visit Day Lewis Pharmacy? Here are a few reasons why should pop into your local pharmacy:
- Easy access: There’s a good chance that your nearest Day Lewis Pharmacy is just a short walk or car journey away. This means you don’t need to travel far to get the advice and treatment you need. Plus, you needn’t worry about booking an appointment with your GP. Simply pop in to speak to one of our pharmacists today.
- Treatments that work: Our pharmacists are ready to help you by recommending effective treatments for
- impetigo and advice on how to use the medication for the best results.
- Advice you can trust: The extensive knowledge and experience of our Day Lewis pharmacists means you can trust their advice. This also means our pharmacists are in the perfect position to recommend treatments that will work for you.
- Dressings and bandages: Proper wound care can help reduce the spread of impetigo. Your local Day Lewis pharmacist can provide guidance on choosing the right dressings and bandages to cover and protect impetigo sores.
If you are suffering with the symptoms of impetigo, visit your local Day Lewis Pharmacy to take advantage of the NHS Pharmacy First Service today.