Published: Friday 09 February 2018

What is impetigo, how do I treat it and how can we avoid it?

Impetigo is a skin infection. Unfortunately it’s very contagious but, with treatment, generally gets better within 7-10 days and isn’t normally serious. We’re all at risk from it but it appears more often in children.

How do I know if I’ve got it?

You’ll have red sores or blisters, that burst and go crusty, often starting in exposed areas such as hands or feet. At this stage they also change colour to a golden-brown. They can grow in size, spread to other bits of your body or face and be itchy. Sometimes they are painful.

How do I treat impetigo?

If you think you or your child might have impetigo, visit your GP. Similarly, if you’ve had it but it comes back or your symptoms change, do go back to see your GP again. Give your GP a call first as they may wish to do a phone consultation rather than have you visit the medical centre, given how contagious impetigo can be.

If the GP diagnoses impetigo, it’s likely you’ll be given an antibiotic cream or perhaps tablets.

How can I stop the impetigo spreading to others?

It’s best to stay away from nursery, school or work, or anywhere where you might come into contact with children or anyone with a compromised immune system. Your child may be able to go back to nursery once treatment has started; please ask your GP to clarify this.
Avoid going to the gym or any situation where you’re preparing food for others. Blisters and sores should be kept clean and dry, and covered with loose clothing or gauze bandages. Be sure not to touch or scratch them.
As with any illness, wash your hands frequently. It’s also a good idea to give toys a clean if your baby or toddler has impetigo. Any clothing, bed linen or towels can be washed at as high a temperature as possible, to curtail germs.

If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to call the NHS 111 number or visit your GP.

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