Impetigo: Signs and symptoms
What you see and feel differs with the type of impetigo. There are two types.
This is the most common type. It goes through these stages:
Starts with one or more sores, which are often itchy
The sores quickly burst, and the skin can be red or raw where the sores have broken open
Glands near the sores may feel swollen
Crusts, usually honey-colored, form
The skin heals without scarring, unless scratching cuts deep into the skin
The infection can spread to other areas of the body, where you’ll see this process begin all over again. This is one reason treatment is so important.
This type causes fluid-filled blisters, but without redness on the surrounding skin. When a person has bullous impetigo, you’ll see it progress as follows:
Blisters appear that contain a cloudy or yellow fluid.
The blisters become limp and transparent and then break open.
Crusty sores form where the blisters have broken open.
The skin tends to heal without scarring.
Ecthyma can develop when impetigo goes untreated. This is a more serious type of infection because it goes deeper into the skin. When a person has ecthyma, you’ll see:
Blisters turn into deep, open sores
Thick crusts develop, often with redness on the surrounding skin
Because the infection goes deeper into the skin, you may see scars once the skin heals.
If notice any of these signs on your child’s skin (or your own skin), you should see your dermatologist, pediatrician, or family doctor. All types of impetigo are very contagious.
Treatment can help clear the infection and prevent the infection from spreading to others.
Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
Habif TP, Campbell, JL, et al. “Impetigo.” In: Dermatology DDxDeck. Mosby Elsevier, China, 2006: Card#46.
Tuchman M and Weinberg JM. “Bacterial infections.” In: Kelly AP and Taylor S. Dermatology for Skin of Color. (first edition). The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. China, 2009:413-4.