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Impetigo

Treating impetigo

[Original article on NHS Choices website]

Impetigo is not usually serious and will often clear up without treatment after two to three weeks.

However, if you or your child has symptoms, visit your GP to rule out the possibility of other, more serious infections.

If impetigo is confirmed, it can usually be effectively treated with antibiotics which may be prescribed in the form of a cream (topical) or as tablets. With treatment, the infection should clear up after about seven to 10 days and the time that the person is infected will also be reduced.

Antibiotic cream

Before applying antibiotic cream, wash any affected areas of skin with warm, soapy water.

To reduce the risk of spreading the infection, it is also important that you wash your hands immediately after applying the cream or, if available, wear latex gloves while applying the cream.

Antibiotic tablets

Antibiotic tablets (oral antibiotics) may be prescribed if the infection is severe and spreads rapidly, or the symptoms do not improve after using antibiotic cream.

A seven-day course of oral antibiotics is usually recommended. If a course of oral antibiotics is prescribed for you or your child, it is very important that the course is finished even if the symptoms clear up. 

Side effects of oral antibiotics can include:

  • stomach aches
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • vomiting (being sick)
  • diarrhoea (loose, watery stools)
  • yeast infections, such as thrush (in women)

If the blisters continue to produce fluid it is a sign that they are still infectious. Impetigo stops being infectious after 48 hours of treatment starting. Therefore, if your child has impetigo they should be able to return to school or nursery:

  • 48 hours after antibiotic treatment has started
  • after the sores have stopped blistering or crusting

If symptoms have not improved within seven days of starting treatment, go back to your GP for a follow-up appointment to discuss other treatment options.  

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