It's a scary sight when your child comes home from day care or elementary school with red sores and oozing fluid-filled blisters. Don't be alarmed if it's impetigo. Impetigo - one of the most common childhood diseases - can be treated with medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Impetigo is a common bacterial skin infection that can produce blisters or sores anywhere on the body, but usually on the face (around the nose and mouth), neck, hands, and diaper area. It's contagious, preventable, and manageable with antibiotics, says pediatrician Thomas D. Smith, MD, of FDA. What Causes Impetigo Two types of bacteria found on our skin cause impetigo: Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes (which also causes strep throat). Most of us go about our lives carrying around these bacteria without a problem, Smith says. But then a minor cut, scrape or insect bite allows the bacteria to cause an infection, resulting in impetigo. Anyone can get impetigo - and more than once, Smith says. Although impetigo is a year-round disease, it occurs most often during the warm weather months. There are more than 3 million cases of impetigo in the United States every year. "We typically see impetigo with kids 2 to 6 years old, probably because they get more cuts and scrapes and scratch more. And that spreads the bacteria," Smith says. Treating Impetigo Look for these signs of impetigo:
itchy red sores that fill with fluid and then burst open, forming a yellow crust
If you see those symptoms, visit your health care provider. Impetigo is usually treated with topical or oral antibiotics. If you have multiple lesions or if there is an outbreak, your doctor might prescribe an oral antibiotic. There is no over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for impetigo.