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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Impetigo (school sores)

Pokenga kiri ā-kura

Impetigo (also called school sores) is a common skin infection. Two types of bacteria (germ) can cause impetigo, Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus.

Impetigo mostly affects children, but it can affect people of any age. Impetigo is passed on by skin-to-skin contact such as touching, so it spreads very easily.

The symptoms of Impetigo are red sores or blisters, which burst to leave crusty, golden-brown patches. The sores can be itchy. The sores mostly affect the face and hands, but they can appear on other parts of the body.

Go to DermNet to see more pictures of impetigo.

Impetigo needs treating to prevent complications and to stop the infection spreading.

Treating impetigo

You should see your GP if you think you or your child has impetigo.

Clean the sores with warm water and a soft cloth to gently remove the crusts.

Apply antiseptic cream two to three times a day for five days. Examples include povidone-iodine, hydrogen peroxide 1% cream, and chlorhexidine.

Cover the sores if possible.

If the impetigo is more severe or widespread, your doctor may recommend treating it with oral antibiotics.

If the infection is not improving or comes back, you should go back to your GP.

Avoiding spreading impetigo

Wash your hands and your child's hands often.

Keep their fingernails short to stop them scratching.

You shouldn't share towels and flannels until the infection has gone.

Children and adults should stay away from school or work until 24 hours after starting treatment or as your GP advises.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


Page reference: 49677

Review key: HISNI-49791