Impetigo (School sores)

Always see a doctor if you're concerned about any aspects of your health or wellbeing while pregnant.
Always see a doctor if you're concerned about any aspects of your health or wellbeing while pregnant. 

What is it?

Impetigo, sometimes called school sores, is a highly contagious and common bacterial skin infection that is caused by streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph) bacteria. These bacteria normally live on the skin and in the nose and throat, but sometimes they can cause an infection, often when skin has been broken (for example, a scratch or bite). The infection causes fluid-filled sores and blisters on the skin; children scratching these blisters can transfer the contagious fluid onto other people or items.

Impetigo is not a serious condition for most children, but it can be very dangerous for newborn babies due to their inexperienced immune systems.  If you suspect that your baby may have contracted impetigo, you should seek immediate medical assistance.

What are the symptoms?

The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne lists the following symptoms of impetigo:

  • Impetigo may start with a blister or a group of blisters.
  • The sores can be anywhere on the body, but are often on the face near the mouth and nose, or on the arms and legs.
  • The blister bursts leaving a patch of red, wet skin, which weeps.
  • The spot usually becomes coated with a tan or yellowish crust, making it look like it has been covered with honey.
  • There can be small spots around the first spots, spreading outwards.
  • Impetigo is usually itchy.
  • The sore takes about one to three days to develop after contact with fluid or crusts from a sore.
  • There is often superficial peeling on the edge.

What are the treatments?
Being a bacterial infection, impetigo responds best to antibiotics. Depending whether the infection is mild or more severe, your child’s doctor may recommend either a prescription antibacterial cream or oral antibiotics.

You will also need to help your child to gently wash their skin several times a day, preferably with an antibacterial soap, to remove crusts and drainage from the sores and blisters. The sores should then be covered with a waterproof bandage to help prevent the infection from spreading.

Once your child has been on antibiotic treatment for 24 hours, they can return to school or childcare, however all sores and blisters need to be covered with a waterproof dressing.  

You will also need to change your child’s bedding, towels, washers and pajamas daily while the infection is present as well as take normal hygiene precautions to help prevent the spread to other family members.


Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne – Fact Sheet

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