Impetigo Definitive Guide (plus treatment)

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If you’re ready to get help now you can book an online GP appointment to discuss your skin with a doctor, or refer yourself to a specialist dermatologist using the links below.

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What is impetigo?

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that causes sores or blisters on the skin. It is most common in young children, but anyone can get it.

 Impetigo is highly contagious, meaning it is easily spread from one person to another. 

Impetigo normally clears up within 7 to 10 days with the correct treatment. 

There are 2 types of impetigo: 

  • non-bullous impetigo —the most common type of impetigo
  • bullous impetigo


What does impetigo look like?

Non-bullous impetigo starts as red sores, usually around the nose and mouth, but may occur on other parts of the face, legs, and arms. The sores are not painful but are sometimes itchy. They may be harder to see on black and brown skin. 

The sores quickly burst open and crust over leaving golden, honey-coloured crusts on the skin. The crusts dry out and fall off,  leaving a red mark that normally fades within a few weeks without leaving a scar. 

Other symptoms of non-bullous impetigo include a  fever (high temperature) and swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpits, and groin. 

Bullous impetigo starts with small fluid-filled blisters on the torso, arms, or legs. The blisters may be painful and surrounded by an area of itchy skin. Within a few days, the blisters burst, dry out and scab over to form a yellow crust. A fever and swollen glands are more common with bullous impetigo.

How to get rid of impetigo

If you think you or your child has impetigo you must see a GP as soon as possible. Your GP will check your rash and ask about your symptoms to confirm you have impetigo before prescribing the correct treatment. 

As impetigo is very contagious, it’s a good idea to call your surgery first to tell them you think you may have impetigo. It may be best to arrange a telephone appointment or video consultation with an online doctor to minimise direct contact with other people and help prevent the spread of impetigo. 

Impetigo normally clears up on its own within around two to three weeks, but it can spread to other parts of your body and other people during this time. 

Your GP will prescribe an antiseptic or antibiotic cream to reduce the risk of infecting other people and help you to recover faster. If your impetigo is severe, you may be prescribed antibiotic tablets. Treatment is normally for 5 to 7 days. With treatment, impetigo usually goes away in around 7 to 10 days.

Preventing the spread of impetigo

You are contagious and can pass impetigo onto others until: 

  • you have been using your prescribed medication for 48 hours
  • your blisters or sores have dried out and crusted over (if you are not receiving treatment). 

To prevent the spread of impetigo

  • stay home from school or work until you are no longer contagious
  • cover your sores or blisters with loose clothing or gauze bandages 
  • wash your sores or blisters with soap and warm water and gently pat dry 
  • keep your sores clean and dry
  • avoid touching or scratching your sores or blisters
  • don’t prepare food for other people
  • don’t share items such as towels or bed linen and wash them at a high temperature after use
  • wash your hands frequently
  • wash or wipe toys with detergent and warm water if your child has impetigo
  • avoid contact with newborn babies or people who have a weakened immune system such as those with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or taking medication for cancer 
  • avoid communal areas like the gym or playing contact sports like rugby and basketball

Get help from an online doctor

An online doctor can diagnose impetigo by asking about your symptoms and examining your rash via video link. They can offer advice about managing your symptoms, preventing the spread of the infection, and prescribe a suitable treatment. 

Impetigo is a highly infectious condition that spreads easily to other people. Seeing an online doctor by video link means you don’t have to leave your house and lowers the risk of passing impetigo onto others.

It’s easy to book an appointment with an NHS-trained GP at Medicspot. Simply click the link and select an appointment at a time and day that suits you. Appointments are often available the same day.

Get help from a pharmacist

Because impetigo is so contagious, it’s best to avoid going to your local pharmacy and asking your pharmacist for help. Impetigo is treated with medications that need to be prescribed by a doctor. If you or your child have symptoms of impetigo, make an appointment with a GP. 


Impetigo is a normally mild, but highly contagious skin infection that is most common in children. 

Treatment with antibiotic cream or tablets speeds recovery and helps reduce the risk of passing the infection on to others. If you or your child have symptoms of impetigo and would like to talk to a doctor, make an appointment today. 


NHS: Impetigo  March 18th 2021 (Accessed November 12th 2022) 

PubMed: Impetigo: What can make it go away faster? July 16th 2020 (Accessed November 12th 2022)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Impetigo: All You Need to Know June 27th 2022 (Accessed November 12th 2022)

NHS Inform: Impetigo October 7th 2022 (Accessed November 12th 2022)

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence: Impetigo  August 2022 (Accessed November 12th 2022)

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