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Impetigo is a contagious skin infection that causes small, red pimples or fluid-filled blisters with crusted yellow scales often occurring on the nose, arms, legs or around the mouth. It is a common infection in young children. Rarely, complications such as cellulitis (skin infection) or kidney disease may develop if children do not receive proper treatment.

What causes impetigo?

Many different viruses. A child may develop croup more than once. Not all persons exposed develop croup symptoms.

How is impetigo spread?

Through secretions from an infected person’s nose and mouth or hands, tissues or other items soiled with these secretions.

What are the symptoms of impetigo?

Mild cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever may occur one to several days before symptoms of croup begin. Then hoarseness and a deepening non-productive cough (sounding like a barking seal) develop. Rapid breathing, sitting forward in the bed to cough, or making a noise when taking a breath may also occur. Symptoms get better during the day and worse at night. The illness lasts 3 to 4 days, but the cough may last longer. 

How long is it contagious?

It usually takes one to 10 days from the time a person is exposed until symptoms develop, and a person is usually contagious until sores are healed, or person has been treated with antibiotics for at least a full 24 hours

How can I prevent infection?

  1. Frequent, careful hand washing by household members.
  2. Loosely cover infected area to allow airflow for healing and avoid contact with others. Remind children not to scratch the sores.
  3. Do not share clothing, towels or personal items.
  4. Clean, rinse with clean water, then sanitize mouthed toys at least daily and when soiled.


For more information, please call the Northern Kentucky Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Revised November 2014