Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial infection caused by (Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes). It typically occurs after a cut, bite, or sting has been scratched and becomes infected. The infection most often occurs among infants and children, but can also affect adults.

Symptoms of Impetigo

  • Small group of red blisters that break, becoming a damp area which oozes fluid and pus (The blisters typically appear on the face and hands, but may also be found on the legs and arms.)
  • Honey-colored crusted areas form soon after the blisters break
  • Vesicle (large bump on the skin, with a clear, fluid-filled top)
  • Skin dryness

What Causes Impetigo?

Physical contact with another person who has the infection is the usual cause. It is also possible to acquire the infection from dirty towels or clothing used by someone with impetigo.

What If You Do Nothing?

Impetigo rarely becomes a serious problem for adults and adolescents, but since it is highly contagious, it should be treated.

Home Remedies for Impetigo

If only a few small sores appear, the following self-care measures can help clear up impetigo.

  • Remove the scabs. Dip a clean washcloth in warm water and gently rub the scabs until they come off. Then gently wash the entire area with soap and water.
  • Use an antimicrobial. After washing, apply an over-the-counter antimicrobial ointment such as Betadine three times per day. Wash the affected area with soap and water before each application. After applying the ointment, cover the entire area with gauze. Reapply the ointment three times daily for seven days. You can also ask your doctor about a more powerful prescription ointment called mupirocin (Bactroban).
  • Contain the infection. To keep the bacteria from spreading, don’t touch any part of your body after you have touched an area with impetigo. Wash your hands often. Also, do not let other people use your towel or washcloth. Change bed linens daily, and wash them with bleach using the hot water cycle.
  • Take care when shaving. Avoid shaving over facial impetigo sores. Germs may be harbored in razors, so be sure to change blades daily.


  • Keep clean. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Don’t scratch insect bites or pick at scabs or skin irritations. Also, be careful not to share combs, towels, or hairbrushes. Wash all cuts and scrapes with soap and water.
  • Aviod skin to skin contact as much as possible.

Beyond Home Remedies: When To Call Your Doctor

Contact your physician if you or your child develops an infection accompanied by a fever of 100°F or higher. Also contact your physician if impetigo covers an area greater than two inches in diameter, if the infection keeps spreading, or if the infection fails to improve significantly within three to four days despite home treatment efforts.

What Your Doctor Will Do

After an inspection of infected areas, an antibiotic cream or oral medication may be prescribed.


The Complete Home Wellness Handbook

John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 07 Nov 2011

Last Modified: 20 Feb 2015