Impetigo is the name given to a rash caused by a bacterial infection of the skin. People can experience primary, impetigo when the underlying skin is quite normal, or secondary impetigo when the skin is already damaged by something like eczema or an insect bite. It is likely that even so-called primary impetigo is actually the result of a tiny scratch which allows the germ to get into the skin.
Children, particularly in the two-six year age group, are most likely to get impetigo. The infection is highly contagious and spreads rapidly by direct contact from person to person or indirectly through shared towels or flannels etc. People whose immune systems are not working properly are prone to getting impetigo.
The impetigo rash starts four-ten days after contact with the germ and appears as small red spots. These rapidly develop into blisters filled with yellowish fluid which then form the classic golden coloured scabs. It is most commonly found on the face, around the mouth or nose, but it can affect any part of the body.
Although impetigo will generally clear up by itself, it is best to treat it both to prevent complications and also to stop it spreading to other people. Impetigo is treated with antibiotics, either as ointments for mild infections or by mouth for more extensive ones. Children with impetigo need to be kept away from schools or nurseries for a full 48 hours after treatment with antibiotics has been started.
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