Impetigo Symptoms & Causes

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In-Depth

What is impetigo?

Impetigo is a superficial infection of the skin caused by bacteria, resulting in lesions that are often grouped and have a red base. The lesions open and become crusty and have a "honey-color," which is typical of impetigo. Impetigo is very contagious and can be spread throughout a household, with children reinfecting themselves or other family members.

What causes impetigo?

Impetigo occurs when common bacteria, some of which are found normally on the skin, enter an open area on the skin's surface and cause an infection.

The most common bacteria that cause impetigo are:

  • group A hemolytic streptococcus
  • staphylococcus aureus

Impetigo is more common in children than adults, but adults may also have the infection. Impetigo is made worse by poor hygiene and warm temperatures.

What are the symptoms of impetigo?

Impetigo starts as a small vesicle or fluid-filled lesion. The lesion then ruptures and the fluid drains, leaving areas that are covered with the honey-colored crusts. Impetigo usually occurs on the face, neck, arms and limbs, but the lesions may appear on any part of the body.

Impetigo lesions may have different sizes and shapes. Your child may also have swollen lymph nodes (small lumps that are located mostly in the neck, arm, under the arm and in the groin area). The lymph nodes become enlarged when your child's body is fighting an infection.

The symptoms of impetigo may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

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