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Impetigo in children - symptoms and treatment

Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin that is common in children. They are often rashes around the mouth or nose of young children. Staphylococci or streptococci are the bacteria that cause impetigo. They transmit very easily between children but also in families and in preschools.

How does impetigo start?

Impetigo often start as small rashes, or it is a small wound, eczema or chickenpox that gets infected. First comes a redness but then it gets sore. The typical thing for impetigo is that the wounds become sticky, crusty and the skin beneath becomes red. The wounds spread quickly if you do not treat them properly. Impetigo often sit on the lip or under the nose but can sit anywhere on the body.

The onset of impetigo, before the wounds have burst, in the nose of a child

Children can get fever from impetigo, and this is a sign that you need to seek care, as penicillin treatment is usually needed to get rid of impetigo with feber. If the child is doing well otherwise, seek your GP or paediatrician during day-time. For infants (under 6 months) or tired and lethargic children with impetigo and fever, seek emergency care.

You can read more about penicillin for children here

Impetigo on the cheek with typical yellowish crusts
Treatment of impetigo

You usually do not have to seek medical care or give the child penicillin if you treat the impetigo properly as soon as it occurs. The skin hurts so your child will probably not like your treatment, but if you want to avoid antibiotic treatment, this is what to do:

  1. Soak crusts by applying a wet compress for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Try to remove the crusts. It may bleed a bit, but that is normal.
  3. Treat the sores with plenty of chlorhexidine (bactericidal solution you buy at a pharmacy or in a regular grocery store)
  4. Feel free to apply a bactericidal ointment, type bought at a pharmacy.
  5. Cover with a bandage to retain the ointment and prevent spread of the infection.

It may take a week before the wounds are completely healed, but with this method they should diminish every day. If they grow, go to your GP or paediatrician. Antibiotics may be needed.

Transmission of impetigo in preeschools

Svinkoppor är mycket smittsamt, och kan vara en del i streptokockinfektioner som går runt runt i en förskolegrupp. Barn med enstaka väl täckta svinkoppor kan eventuellt gå till förskolan, men om du inte kan täcka kopporna helt eller om barnet har spridda svinkoppor – stanna hemma.

A child with impetigo should stay at home until the impetigo sores have dried and the skin has healed - at that point they will not transmit the disease to their friends at preschool.

Read more:

Not sure if the baby has impetigo ? Read our popular image guide on dots and rashes in children here. 

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Höstblåsor hos barn  –  hand foot and mouth disease

Chickenpox in children - infection, course, incubation time

Blisters in the mouths of children

Eczema in children

You can find all posts about childhood diseases here

Impetigo in children - symptoms and treatment
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