What Is Infantigo (Impetigo)? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments for Infantigo

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what is infantigoYou may ask “What is infantigo?” but there is a good chance that you may have experienced infantigo symptoms at some point in your life. Infantigo, also called impetigo, is a common bacterial skin infection in children, although it can affect adults too.

An infantigo rash typically consists of clusters of sores. While it typically does not cause serious problems, infantigo sores are certainly “eye-sores”. Left untreated, however, the sores can end up causing permanent damage and more serious complications.

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What Is Infantigo?

Infantigo is a bacterial skin infection. It can be caused by two different types of bacteria: strep (streptococcus) or staph (staphylococcus). Typically, these bacteria infect skin that is broken or damaged by cuts, scratches, bites, eczema, or other skin conditions. However, infantigo can also occur in healthy skin.

The condition is highly contagious and easily spreadable through either physical contact or contaminated items (such as shared towels, bed sheets, and clothing). This is one reason why infantigo commonly affects children, as it is easily picked up at daycares and in school. However, adults may also find themselves with the infection if they come in contact with someone else with infantigo.

Types of Infantigo

While infantigo can be caused by two different types of bacteria, there are actually two different types of the infection. Infantigo symptoms differ between the two different types:

  • Non-bullous impetigo: The first type of infantigo infection is called non-bullous impetigo. This form of impetigo is more common, making up most cases. In this form of the infection, impetigo symptoms include crusty, rapidly-bursting sores.
  • Bullous impetigo: The second type of infantigo is called bullous impetigo. With this type, which is rarer, large, fluid-filled blisters occur. Bullous impetigo is usually painless.

Signs and Symptoms of Infantigo (Impetigo)

There are many infantigo symptoms that typically occur with the infection. While infantigo can affect any part of your body, it is common to have infantigo on your face, particularly around the nose or mouth.

For both types of infection, there are some common symptoms:

  • Infantigo rash
  • Sores
  • Blisters
  • Swollen glands
  • Itchy or irritated skin

For the more common non-bullous infantigo, it is common for the infection to start with small red sores that almost look like insect bites. These sores quickly burst and ooze a yellow fluid. The sores will then crust over, before they eventually go away. Although infantigo is typically painless, these sores can be itchy and are sometimes accompanied by a fever.

For the rarer bullous infantigo, large pus-filled blisters form, often on your arms, legs, or backside. These blisters will also usually burst and form a yellow crust, before healing. They can also be accompanied by itchiness or a fever.

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Causes of Infantigo

Infantigo is caused by bacteria infecting the skin. While that is the one and only cause, there are a number of different factors that can increase your chances of developing the infection.

Here are some of the common “causes” of infantigo:

  • Cuts, scratches, and broken skin
  • Rashes (e.g. poison ivy rashes), eczema, and other conditions that irritate the skin
  • Allergies or anything that causes skin inflammation
  • Physical contact with someone who has infantigo
  • Sharing contaminated bedding, clothing, towels, toys, and other items
  • Insect bites

Infantigo can also occur in seemingly healthy skin with no noticeable cause. It is possible to have picked up the bacteria from many unsuspected sources.

How to Treat and Prevent Infantigo

Luckily, there are infantigo treatments that can help you put a quick end to any breakout that occurs.

The most important thing is to see a doctor if you have the signs or symptoms of infantigo. If left untreated, infantigo can cause permanent scarring and skin pigmentation. It can also lead to kidney damage in rare instances, so it is better to see your doctor to avoid any risk.

Typically, doctors will prescribe a topical antibiotic cream to apply over the infantigo rash or blisters. For more aggressive cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotic pills.

However, there are also natural and at-home treatments that you can use to treat infantigo:

1. Hygiene

Is infantigo contagious? Yes, but there are things we can do to stop it from spreading. Infantigo can affect anyone, but when it has occurred, proper hygiene will help stop the infection from spreading. Gently wash affected areas with warm water and a mild soap. Wash your hands frequently, as well as bed linens, towels, and other material that may spread the bacteria. Avoid touching or scratching your face.

2. Diet

Bacteria infections involve skin inflammation, which is why eating anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial foods can help put a stop to infantigo. Garlic is a potent anti-bacterial—either. Adding some extra garlic to your food or taking a garlic supplement can help treat infantigo. As well, anti-inflammatory foods, such as turmeric, will help stop sores from getting worse.

3. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an anti-bacterial and one of the most effective treatments for bacterial infections of all kinds. You can either buy skincare products that use tea tree oil at your local health food store or apply it on your own, by diluting a small amount of tea tree oil into moisturizing carrier oil. Mixing in a few drops of tea tree oil with argan oil and applying it on infantigo can help stop infections. Remember to research the proper amount of tea tree oil you should be using, as using too much can be dangerous.

Infantigo is very common with children, but it is possible to get the skin infection as an adult. Luckily, there are many infantigo treatments that can be used to prevent the skin condition from getting worse or infecting your friends and family. Hygiene, diet, and natural treatments can all be used to clear up a dreaded infantigo rash and keep it from coming back.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Infantigo Symptoms & Treatment,” Regenerative Health and Nutrition web site; http://www.rhnp.org/infantigo/, last accessed December 30, 2015.
“Infantigo – Topic Overview,” WebMD web site, September 9, 2014; http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/impetigo-overview.
“Know the Facts About Infantigo,” Minimemedia.com, June 12, 2015; http://minimemedia.com/know-the-facts-about-infantigo/.
Nordqvist, C., “Infantigo: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment,” Medical News Today web site, June 30, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/162945.php.
“What is Infantigo (Impetigo)?” Health Guide HQ web site; http://www.healthguidehq.com/what-is-infantigo-impetigo.html, last accessed December 30, 2015.


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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

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Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »