Check if you have impetigo

Impetigo starts with red sores or blisters, but the redness may be harder to see on brown and black skin.

The sores or blisters quickly burst and often leave crusty, golden-brown patches.

The patches can:

The lower half of a child's face with red and yellow weepy impetigo sores on their nose and around their mouth. Shown on white skin.
The sores and blisters of impetigo commonly affect the face (around the nose and mouth) and hands.
3 patches of crusty, light-brown skin on a person’s chin from impetigo. They have a large, crusty patch underneath their lower lip. Shown on white skin.
After the blisters burst, you often have golden-brown crusty patches on your skin.
Impetigo on the chin. There a 2 patches that have dark brown scabs in the middle surrounded by lighter areas of weeping skin. Shown on medium brown skin.
Sometimes yellow liquid oozes from the blisters and hardens to leave a scaly border around a scab. This is called bullous impetigo.
If you're not sure it's impetigo
Impetigo can look similar to other skin conditions.
Skin symptoms Possible cause

Blisters on lips or around the mouth

Cold sores

Itchy, dry, cracked or sore skin

Atopic eczema

Itchy blisters

Shingles, chickenpox

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you or your child:

  • might have impetigo
  • has had treatment for impetigo but the symptoms have changed or become worse
  • had impetigo before and it keeps coming back

Impetigo is very infectious. Check with the GP before you go into the surgery. They may suggest a phone consultation.


A pharmacist can help with impetigo

You can also speak to a pharmacist if you think you or your child have impetigo. They can provide the same treatment you would get from a GP, if you need it.

Find a pharmacy

Treatment for impetigo

A GP or pharmacist will check if your symptoms are caused by a more serious skin infection, like cellulitis.

If it's impetigo, they can prescribe:

Babies and people with a weakened immune system may also need antibiotic tablets to stop the infection causing more serious problems.

If your impetigo keeps coming back

A GP can take a swab from your skin to check for the bacteria that causes impetigo. They may also take a swab from inside your nose.

They might prescribe an antiseptic body wash, nasal ointment, or both, to try to clear the bacteria and stop the impetigo coming back.

Important: Make sure you finish treatment

Do not stop taking the antibiotic tablets early, even if the impetigo starts to clear up.

How to stop impetigo spreading or getting worse

Impetigo can be easily spread to other parts of your body or to other people through skin-to-skin contact.

You can also get it by touching things that have been infected, like towels and bedding.

Impetigo stops being contagious:

There are some things you can do to help stop impetigo spreading or getting worse while it's still contagious.


  • stay away from work, school or nursery until no longer contagious

  • wash affected areas with soap and water and dry them thoroughly

  • wash your hands frequently, particularly before and after using antibiotic cream

  • wash flannels, towels, sheets and pillowcases at a high temperature

  • wash toys with detergent and warm water if your children have impetigo


  • do not touch or scratch sores, blisters or crusty patches – this also helps stop scarring

  • do not have close contact with children or people with diabetes or a weakened immune system (if they're having chemotherapy, for example)

  • do not share flannels, towels, sheets or pillowcases

  • do not prepare food for other people if you have impetigo

  • do not go to the gym or play contact sports like football

How to avoid impetigo

Impetigo usually infects skin that's already damaged.

You can get it if you have a minor injury like a cut, scratch or insect bite, or a skin condition.

To avoid getting impetigo:

Page last reviewed: 6 June 2024
Next review due: 6 June 2027