Diagnosis

Doctors usually diagnose impetigo by looking at the distinctive sores. Lab tests generally aren't necessary.

If the sores don't clear, even with antibiotic treatment, your doctor may take a sample of the liquid produced by a sore and test it to see what types of antibiotics might work best on it. Some types of the bacteria that cause impetigo have become resistant to certain antibiotic drugs.

Treatment

Impetigo typically is treated with an antibiotic ointment or cream that you apply directly to the sores. You may need to first soak the affected area in warm water or use wet compresses to help remove the scabs so the antibiotic can penetrate the skin.

If you have more than just a few impetigo sores, your doctor might recommend antibiotic drugs that can be taken by mouth. Be sure to finish the entire course of medication even if the sores are healed. This helps prevent the infection from recurring and makes antibiotic resistance less likely.

Lifestyle and home remedies

For minor infections that haven't spread to other areas, you could try treating the sores with an over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment that contains bacitracin. Placing a nonstick bandage over the area can help prevent the sores from spreading.

Preparing for your appointment

When you call your family doctor or child's pediatrician to make your appointment, ask if you need to do anything to prevent infecting others in the waiting room.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Make a list of the following in preparation for your appointment:

  • Symptoms you or your child is experiencing
  • All medications, vitamins and supplements that your or your child is taking
  • Key medical information, including other conditions
  • Questions to ask your doctor

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What might be causing the sores?
  • Are tests needed to confirm the diagnosis?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What can I do to prevent the infection from spreading?
  • What skin care routines do you recommend while the condition heals?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • When did the sores start?
  • What did the sores look like when they started?
  • Have you had any recent cuts, scrapes or insect bites to the affected area?
  • Are the sores painful or itchy?
  • What, if anything, makes the sores better or worse?
  • Does someone in your family already have impetigo?
  • Has this problem occurred in the past?