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Impetigo is a bacterial infection on the surface of the skin, characterized by honey-colored crusts and mild sores.

What is going on in the body?

Staphylococcal and streptococcal organisms are common on the skin. Warm temperatures, high humidity, and an existing skin disease can lead to overgrowth, or rapid multiplication of these organisms. This overgrowth infects the skin surface and creates the skin lesions of impetigo.


What are the causes and risks of the infection?

Impetigo is a bacterial infection caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal organisms. Scratches, cuts, or skin diseases such as eczema increase a person's risk of infection from impetigo. Impetigo can occur in people of all ages, but it is most common in children.
Chronic health problems, malnutrition, or poor hygiene can cause an adult to be susceptible to the disease. People commonly carry the bacteria responsible for impetigo in their nasal passages, and can spread them to others, although they do not have symptoms themselves.


What can be done to prevent the infection?

Benzoyl peroxide soap can help prevent impetigo in people who experience repeated bouts.


How is the infection diagnosed?

Impetigo is diagnosed by a healthcare professional based on the appearance of the skin. Sometimes, a culture of the material from the sore will be sent to the laboratory to identify the organism.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the infection?

Impetigo may progress to deeper skin ulcers and can spread over large areas of skin. Certain streptococcal organisms also cause kidney disease.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Impetigo is highly contagious and spreads from person to person by direct contact with the skin lesions. It can also be spread by towels, bedding, and clothing from an infected person. Special care should be taken to avoid transmitting the infection to newborn babies.


What are the treatments for the infection?

Any crusted skin lesions of impetigo should be soaked several times a day in a solution of soap and water. After soaking the lesions for 10 minutes, the person should gently wipe off the crusts.
Antiseptic solutions may be used to clean the skin. This cleaning reduces the number of bacteria in the area and the possibility of spreading the disease to others.
Antibiotics, such as oral cephalexin (i.e., Keflex, Panixine), cefaclor (i.e., Ceclor), cephradine (i.e., Velosef), cefadroxil (i.e., Duracef), amoxicillin-clavulanate (i.e., Augmentin), azithromycin (i.e, Zithromax, Zmax), clarithromycin (i.e., Biaxin) and dicloxacillin (i.e., Dynapen), or topical mupirocin (i.e., Bactroban) may be used for impetigo.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Antibiotics may cause rash, stomach upset, or allergic reactions.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the infection?

Impetigo should clear up completely with effective treatment.


How is the infection monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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