What is Impetigo?

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Impetigo is a common and highly contagious skin infection that mainly affects infants and children and is predominantly caused by two bacteria – Group A Streptococcus and Staphylococcus Aureus. Impetigo usually appears as red sores on the face, especially around a child's nose and mouth, and on hands, arms, legs and feet. For this reason, impetigo can be confused with hand-foot-and-mouth disease. This infection often piggybacks on other skin rashes or irritation areas.

Classic signs and symptoms of impetigo involve red sores that quickly rupture, ooze for a few days and then form a yellowish-brown crust. The sores usually occur around the nose and mouth but can be spread to other areas of the body by fingers, clothing and towels. Itching and soreness are generally mild.

Factors that increase the risk of impetigo include:

  • Impetigo most commonly occurs in children ages 2 to 5, but older children and adults can be affected.
  • Impetigo spreads easily at schools and child care settings.
  • Impetigo infections are more common in summer.
  • Participation in sports that involve skin-to-skin contact, such as football or wrestling, increases your risk of developing impetigo.
  • The bacteria that cause impetigo often enter your skin through a small skin injury, insect bite or rash.

Keeping skin clean is the best way to keep it healthy. To help prevent impetigo from spreading to others, it's important to wash cuts, scrapes, insect bites and other wounds right away.

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