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10 tips to prevent spreading impetigo, and avoid getting it again

Impetigo is very contagious, so it’s easy to spread the disease to other people, and to other parts of your body. To help patients avoid this, dermatologists recommend the following.

Sideline sports activities while you are contagious. Playing sports can spread impetigo to others and to other parts of your body.

Football player sits on the sideline bench

10 ways to prevent spreading the infection to others (and to other parts of your body)

  1. Avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with others. Skin-to-skin contact spreads impetigo. It should be avoided until you’re no longer contagious.

    Impetigo is contagious until either:

    • The blisters and sores crust over.
    • You’ve been treating with an antibiotic for 24 to 48 hours.

  2. Resist the urge to touch (and scratch) your sores. When you do this, you can spread the infection to other areas of your body.

  3. Skip sharing personal items with others. It’s possible to get impetigo from sharing a razor, towel, or another object that a person with impetigo has used. Be sure to avoid sharing all personal items, including toys.

  4. Keep the sores clean and covered. Wash the sores with soap and water as often as your dermatologist recommends, and cover them with gauze bandages and tape.

  5. Wash your hands after treating your skin, using the toilet, and when they are dirty. Be sure to use soap and dry your hands well, using with a clean towel or paper towel.

  6. Use a clean washcloth and towel each time you wash. This can help avoid spreading the impetigo to other parts of your body.

  7. Wash all clothing, towels, washcloths, and sheets that you (or your child) has worn or used since getting infected. Wash everything in hot water. Only items that belong to the infected person should be washed together. If you need to wash another family member’s clothes or linens, wash these in a separate load.

  8. Disinfect counters, doorknobs, and other surfaces that the person with impetigo has touched. This can prevent others from getting impetigo.

  9. Trim nails so that they are short. Impetigo can be itchy. Scratching can spread the infection to other parts of the body. Scratching can also tear the skin, which can worsen impetigo. Short nails are less likely to damage the skin.

  10. If the skin itches unbearably, apply an anti-itch medicine. Impetigo can be very itchy, but it’s important to avoid scratching.

Prevent getting impetigo again

Impetigo is extremely contagious, so it may not be possible to avoid getting it again. Doing the following, however, can reduce your risk:

  1. Treat wounds right away. If you (or your child) get a cut, scrape, insect bite, or any other wound, immediately wash it with soap and water. Then apply an antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

  2. Bath or shower after every sports workout, practice, and competition. Be sure to use a cleanser or soap and a clean towel to dry off.

  3. Wash your hands after using the toilet and when they get dirty. Again, you want to use soap. You also want to use a clean towel or paper towel to dry your hands.

  4. Stop sharing personal items like sports equipment, towels, and clothes. These can spread impetigo.

  5. If someone has impetigo:

    • Avoid touching the person’s skin.
    • Avoid touching everything that person has touched, including towels, sheets, toys, and sporting equipment.

  6. Wear clean clothes. Avoid pulling dirty clothes out of the laundry hamper, especially dirty workout clothes.

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