May 8, 2016 Dr. Lawrence Jaeger of New York is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions and is board certified in dermatology and dermatologic surgery. Impetigo is a highly contagious, superficial skin infection that most commonly affects children two to five years of age. The two types of impetigo are nonbullous impetigo (i.e., impetigo contagiosa) and bullous impetigo. The diagnosis usually is made clinically, but rarely a culture may be useful. Although impetigo usually heals spontaneously within two weeks without scarring, treatment helps relieve the discomfort, improve cosmetic appearance, and prevent the spread of an organism that may cause other illnesses (e.g., glomerulonephritis). There is no standard treatment for impetigo, and many options are available. The topical antibiotics mupirocin and fusidic acid are effective and may be superior to oral antibiotics. Oral antibiotics should be considered for patients with extensive disease. Oral penicillin V is seldom effective; otherwise there is no clear preference among antistaphylococcal penicillins, amoxicillin/clavulanate, cephalosporins, and macrolides, although resistance rates to erythromycin are rising. Topical disinfectants are not useful in the treatment of impetigo. What Are the Treatments for Impetigo? The key to treating — and preventing — impetigo is to practice good personal hygiene and maintain a clean environment. Once the infection occurs, prompt attention will keep it under control and prevent it from spreading. Even if only one family member has impetigo, everyone in the household should follow the same sanitary regimen. Wash regularly with soap and water. This should help clear up mild forms of the infection. If this does not help, seek care from your doctor. You may need a prescription medication. Topical mupirocin ointment, available only by prescription, is highly successful in treating mild forms of the infection. Don’t try over-the-counter antibacterial ointments; they are too weak to kill strep and staph infections, and applying the ointment carelessly may actually spread the impetigo. If you have more severe infection, you may need to take oral antibiotics. Anyone in a household who develops impetigo should use a clean towel with each washing. Be sure to launder those towels separately. Keep sores covered to prevent spread of the infection to other parts of the body or other people.