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What do you know about impetigo?

What do you know about impetigo?

Experts warn that parents should be more careful regarding children’s health as they can be exposed to a number of diseases or infections. For example, impetigo, a highly contagious skin infection that causes red sores on the face and is spread through skin-to-skin contact.

Sharing clothes, towels or toys could also expose them to impetigo.  The infection can also attack adults, though it is mostly in children.

Dr Edgar Kalimba, a paediatrician at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, says impetigo is a skin infection usually caused by a germ (bacterium) and can be transmitted from one person to another.

He says that it is in mostly common in children of two to five and the most common form is caused by a bacterium called staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph infection.


“The illness is so contagious and could result in bullous — a rare skin condition causing large, fluid-filled blisters — which becomes pus-filled within an hour and ruptures, leaving a yellow crust,” says Dr Raymond Awazi, a paediatrician at Hôpital La Croix du Sud in Kigali.

Awazi says that impetigo is one of the most common skin diseases in children and the main symptom is red sores that form around the nose and mouth.

Kalimba explains that a child could also get impetigo by scratching itchy eczema or chickenpox. Scratching breaks the skin; it makes it easy for the bacteria to get inside, though at times impetigo can develop on unbroken skin.


Kalimba says that impetigo blisters normally appear on the face, mainly around the nose and mouth.

He also says that the infection can easily be passed through sharing beddings, clothes, poor hygiene, and overcrowding.


“The infection provokes the immune system, causing kidney problems and could damage the heart. One could also remain with scars on the skin,” Kalimba notes. 

He says that impetigo can cause cellulitis; a serious infection that affects tissues essential for your skin.


Awazi notes that locally, antiseptics help treat the illness (though efficiency is not evidence-based). However, antibiotics can also help treat the infection and systematic treatment can be used. 

“Fusidic acid, mupirocin cream or retapamulin can be used, though the wound should be cleaned well in order to apply the cream effectively,” says Kalimba.

He emphasises that doctors should first examine the patient and give a conclusion on the kind of medication or treatment to be given, depending on how serious the infection is. He, nevertheless, says that in case of widespread infection, oral antibiotics can be prescribed.


Kalimba advises not to touch the patches unless you are applying the cream, however, after applying the antibiotic cream, wash your hands with soap and clean water.

“Don’t allow children to share towels or clothes, they should take a bath regularly, cut their nails, help them treat any wound immediately, and do not mix with children who are infected until they are fully cured, above all, enforce proper hygiene,” he says.