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How long does impetigo last?

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Impetigo is a common skin infection characterised by red sores that quickly rupture, ooze fluid, and then form a honey-coloured crust.

It primarily affects children, but adults can also be susceptible, especially those with weakened immune systems.

It is caused by either Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. These bacteria can enter the body through cuts, scrapes, or insect bites, leading to the characteristic symptoms of impetigo.

In terms of duration, impetigo typically lasts for around 1 to 2 weeks if left untreated. However, with appropriate treatment, such as antibiotics prescribed by a pharmacist, the infection can be resolved more quickly, often within a few days.

Impetigo incubation period

The incubation period of impetigo, referring to the time between exposure to the bacteria and the onset of symptoms, tends to range from 1 to 3 days

During this period, even if you have come into contact with someone with impetigo, you may not yet show any signs of infection. 

How long is impetigo contagious?

Impetigo is highly contagious, especially during the early stages of the infection when the sores or blisters are oozing fluid. The contagious period typically begins when the symptoms first appear and can last until the sores have crusted over and healed completely.

On average, impetigo remains contagious for about 24 to 48 hours after starting antibiotic treatment. However, without treatment, the contagious period may extend for a longer duration, often up to several weeks, until the sores have healed entirely. 

It’s important to note that even after the visible signs of impetigo have resolved, people can carry the bacteria on their skin for some time, potentially remaining contagious until the bacteria are completely eradicated.

Frequently asked questions about impetigo

When does impetigo stop being contagious?

Impetigo typically stops being contagious within 24 to 48 hours of starting antibiotic treatment. However, ensure all sores have healed before considering it non-contagious.

How long does impetigo take to go?

Impetigo can clear up within a few days to weeks with proper treatment. However, your recovery time may vary based on the severity of your infection and the effectiveness of treatment.

How long does impetigo take to heal?

It can vary. With antibiotic treatment, improvement is often seen within a few days. Complete healing may take up to two weeks, depending on the severity of the infection and your body’s response to the treatment.

A child has impetigo around their mouth, which may become scarred.

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