Written by: Deen Kurrimbux

Impetigo is a common and highly contagious superficial skin infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus that results in sores and skin blisters.


Non-bullous impetigo affects the skin around the nasal and mouth areas causing sores that eventually burst leaving a yellowish crust that has been likened to cornflakes stuck on the skin

Bullous impetigo occurs around the main section of the body (neck to waist) causing fluid-filled blisters to develop that burst after a few days to leave a yellow crust. Both types leave behind red marks which disappear over days and weeks.

Skin damage (cuts or other wounds) is the determining factor in the occurrence of impetigo as it is this breach in the skin which allows the aforementioned bacterium to enter the skin.

Treatment involves cleansing and removal of the crusty skin formations and applying wet dressings. If the condition is local to one area then topical creams are applied otherwise a course of oral antibiotics are given. Keeping the skin well hydrated is also advised as this prevents cracking and lesions.

Since impetigo is contagious it is necessary to prevent re-infection occurring thus limiting use of shared items such as towels, sheets and other miscellany should be observed. Washing these fabrics at a high temperature will ensure the bacteria are eradicated.

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Contact avoidance with the infected individual is recommended as is keeping the wounds clean.  Particular attention must be given to good personal hygiene especially in the case of children and this should be taught by the parents.

Having impetigo can lead to complications, these are rare, however, but nonetheless serious. Cellulitis (see Spotlight On… Cellulitis for more details) occurs when the infection spreads to a deeper layer of skin. Septicaemia (commonly known as blood poisoning) is when the blood is infected with bacteria causing fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. Scarlet fever also caused by bacteria often accompanies impetigo though it, too, is treatable with antibiotics.

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