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Infant and Child Health

Impetigo

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Impetigo is a bacterial infection that is much more common in children than in adults. It often starts when a small cut or scratch becomes infected. Symptoms are oozing, honey-coloured, crusty sores that often appear on the face between the upper lip and nose, especially after a cold. Scratching the sores may spread impetigo to other parts of the body.

Prevention

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  • Wash all scratches and sores with soap and water.

  • If your child has a runny nose, keep the area between the child's upper lip and nose clean to prevent infection.

  • Keep your child's fingernails short and clean.

Home Treatment

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Small areas of impetigo may respond well to prompt Home Treatment.

  • Remove crusts by soaking the area in warm water (use a warm washcloth for the face) for 15 to 20 minutes; then scrub gently with a washcloth and antibacterial soap. Pat dry gently; do not rub. Repeat several times a day.

  • Apply an antibiotic ointment. Cover the area with gauze taped well away from the sores. This will help keep the infection from spreading and prevent scratching.

  • Adult men with impetigo should shave around the sores, not over them, and use a clean blade daily. Do not use a shaving brush.

  • To prevent spreading the infection, do not share towels, washcloths, or bath water.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If impetigo covers a total area larger than 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter.

  • If impetigo does not improve after 3 to 4 days of Home Treatment, or if any new infected areas appear. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

  • If there is facial swelling or tenderness, especially near the nose and lips.

  • If other signs of infection develop:

    • Pain, swelling, or tenderness.

    • Redness or red streaks extending from the area.

    • Discharge of pus.

    • Fever of 37.2°C (99°F) or higher with no other cause.

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