Impetigo (school sores) factsheet


Impetigo is a bacterial infection that causes sores on the skin, especially on the face. It is also known as school sores.

Impetigo is caused by two types of bacteria.

1. Streptococcus pyogenes, also known as group A strep

2. Staphylococcus aureus, also known as staph.

Impetigo happens when these bacteria get into the skin through a scratch, cut or other break in the skin caused by problems like:

Impetigo can happen on healthy skin and is not a result or poor hygiene. The impetigo sores contain the bacteria, so your child is at risk of spreading the infection until the sores have fully healed.

 Signs and symptoms

Impetigo can cause crusting and blistering on the skin.


Crusted impetigo causes a thick soft yellow crust over the top of red, wet skin. Crusted impetigo grows slowly. The crusted spots are smaller than the blistered spots. The crusting can be itchy, but it should not be painful.


Blistering impetigo causes blisters on the skin that burst quickly and leave spots of skin that are slightly wet or shiny areas with a brown crust at the edge. The blisters grow quickly and can be centimetres wide. They sometimes happen in a ring-shape. The blistering can be itchy, but it should not be painful.


Your child’s doctor will be able to diagnose impetigo by checking their skin. They might do a skin swab if there are any other concerns.


Impetigo is usually treated with antibiotics. Your child’s doctor may take a swab of one of the sores to see what type of antibiotics will work best.

It is important that your child takes the whole course of antibiotics, even if they start to feel better. This will make sure that the infection is fully gone. See your child’s doctor if they have finished their antibiotics and still have impetigo sores. If possible, your child should be kept away from other children and school until 24 hours after starting treatment.

If other family members or people in your household start to show skin spots, they will also need to have treatment, so the impetigo does not spread.

You can treat your child’s sores at home by wiping them gently with a clean, disposable wet cloth after a bath. Use a waterproof dressing to stop your child from scratching the sores and make sure to wash your hands before and after.


Reducing the spread of impetigo

Impetigo spreads when bacteria enters the skin. You can help reduce the risk of your child getting impetigo by:

  • seeing your doctor as soon as possible to treat any skin conditions or irritation
  • cleaning and covering any cuts, scrapes and breaks in the skin
  • supporting your child to have good hygiene, including washing their hands with soap
  • supporting your child to not pick at or scratch skin irritation or breaks.

To reduce the spread of impetigo, you can:

  • make sure all sores are covered with waterproof bandages or plasters
  • cover sores with a watertight bandage or plaster
  • give your child a daily bath or shower and using a fresh clean towel each time
  • wash hands regularly with soap, before and after touching or treating sores
  • cut your child’s fingernails and keep them clean
  • regularly wipe down toys and play surfaces with disinfectant
  • wash your child’s clothes and bed linen regularly, and separately from the rest of the family
  • clean laundry using a hot wash and hot tumble dry, or dry in the sun
  • avoid sharing clothes, towels, linens, toothbrushes
  • avoid sharing any sharp grooming tools like nail clippers, tweezers, or razors.
Last updated Monday 11th December 2023


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024