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Impetigo symptoms

Impetigo symptoms are not usually dangerous and it will normally get better, even without treatment. However, treatment is recommended as it will get rid of the infection more quickly, and, as it is a contagious condition, it reduces the risk of you spreading it to other parts of your body or other people.

If you have impetigo, it is recommended that you get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.

Different types of impetigo

There are two different types of impetigo:

Non-bullous impetigo symptoms

Non-bullous impetigo is the most common type of the infection. The symptoms include:

  • Red spots - the first visible stage of the infection can appear as red spots, usually around the mouth and nose, which then turn into sores and blisters. They are usually around 1-2cm in diameter and look like insect bites. They can also affect other parts of the body.
  • Crusts on the skin - the initial red spots will burst after a few days, leaving behind thick crusts on the skin. These golden coloured crusts are often referred to as cornflakes on the skin, as the appearance is similar. The surrounding skin may look red and sore.
  • Red marks on the skin - After the crusts have dried, you’ll be left with red marks, which usually disappear without causing scars.

For the first four days or so after infection, you may not have any symptoms at all, which is why the condition is so easily spread.

Bullous impetigo symptoms

Bullous impetigo is more common in newborn babies, around the nappy area or on their neck. It is less common in children and adults, but they can still be affected. Symptoms include:

  • Larger, fluid filled blisters – These usually appear on the body between the waist and neck, or the arms and legs. The fluid inside starts off clear, but will become cloudier and darker.
  • Crusts on skin - The blisters can spread rapidly before bursting, leaving a crust behind that is golden in colour and they can be painful and itchy.
  • Red marks on the skin - After the crusts have dried, you’ll be left with red marks, which usually disappear without causing scars.

How long does impetigo last?

The symptoms of impetigo will improve without treatment in around two to three weeks. However, a doctor will usually recommend a treatment to get the infection under control more quickly – usually in around a week. This will also help prevent you spreading the infection to other people.

A form of antibiotics is usually prescribed, which will often be a cream. You can read more about how impetigo is treated.

How long is impetigo contagious?

With effective antibiotic treatment, impetigo should stop being contagious after 48 hours. Without treatment, it will be contagious for much longer – usually until the golden crusts have cleared up.

Most commonly, it is spread by direct contact with someone who is infected, but it can also be spread by sharing things like towels, bathwater, clothes, clothing, toys and even utensils.

You can also spread it to different areas of your body just by scratching one area and touching another, so it’s important you don’t touch the rash, particularly in the early stages of the infection.

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