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What causes impetigo?

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection that primarily affects children, though it can also occur in adults.

It usually shows as red sores or blisters that burst and develop a honey-coloured crust. These sores can occur anywhere on the body but are most often found around the mouth and nose. Other symptoms may include itching, swelling, and enlarged lymph nodes.

Impetigo causes

Impetigo can be caused by various factors, primarily revolving around bacterial infection.

The most common bacteria responsible for impetigo are Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes.

These bacteria can enter the body through breaks in the skin, such as cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or existing skin conditions like eczema.

Impetigo is a highly contagious condition and is often spread through: 

  • Contaminated objects like towels, clothing and sheets
  • Food prepared by someone with impetigo
  • Using gym equipment which has been contaminated
  • Playing contact sports with a person with impetigo

What causes impetigo in adults?

Though impetigo is more commonly associated with children, it can also affect adults. 

It’s typically less frequent in adults as adults generally have a more developed and robust immune system, which can fend off infections more effectively.

However, you may be at risk of catching impetigo as an adult if: 

  • You have a pre-existing skin condition (like eczema or psoriasis)


  • You work in close contact with people who may have impetigo, like a nursery or school


  • You have a weakened immune system due to an underlying condition 

Frequently asked questions about impetigo

Is impetigo itchy?

Yes, impetigo typically causes itching, along with red sores or blisters. Consult a pharmacist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Can adults get impetigo?

Yes, impetigo can affect adults too. It’s a common bacterial skin infection that can occur at any age.

What does impetigo feel like?

Impetigo often feels itchy and uncomfortable. It may start as small red bumps that develop into blisters or crusty sores.

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

Think you might have impetigo?

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