Impetigo in Children: Care Instructions

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Patches of impetigo on child's upper lip, lower nose, and cheek.


Impetigo (say "im-puh-TY-go") is a skin infection caused by bacteria. It causes blisters that break open, ooze fluid, and form patches of crusty sores. These patches may look yellow, gold, or brown.

Impetigo can be anywhere on the body. Scratching the sores may spread the infection to other parts of the body. It can also spread to others through close contact or by sharing towels, clothing, and other items.

Prescription antibiotic ointment or pills can usually cure impetigo.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Apply antibiotic ointment exactly as instructed.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotic pills or liquid for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Gently wash the sores with clean water each day. If crusts form, your child's doctor may advise you to soften or remove the crusts. Do this by soaking them in warm water and patting them dry. This can help the cream or ointment work better.
  • After you touch the area, wash your hands with soap and water. Or you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Trim your child's fingernails short to reduce scratching. Scratching can spread the infection.
  • Do not let your child share towels, sheets, or clothes with family members or other kids at school until the infection is gone.
  • Wash anything that may have touched the infected area.
  • A child can usually return to school or day care after 24 hours of treatment.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has signs of a worse infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.
    • A fever.
  • Impetigo gets worse or spreads to other areas.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.