Yes, impetigo is contagious. It is a bacterial skin infection that is caused by either the streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. The infection remains near the top layers of skin, but usually gains an initial foothold for breeding in a cut, bite, burn or other injury that breaks the skin surface. Impetigo can affect adults, but it is primarily a childhood infection and it is fairly common.
The impetigo rash may appear anywhere on the body, but most frequently shows up on the face, arms and legs. It may start out as flat reddish spots that turn into fluid-filled blisters, which can be small or large, depending on which bacteria are causing the infection. Over time, the blisters burst and the skin underneath may weep, as open sores develop. These then crust over, sometimes with a grainy honey-colored crust.
Impetigo may be spread from one child to another and from one part of the body to another. Scratching or touching the rash spreads it. It is important to treat impetigo as early as possible, not only to prevent it from spreading, but to reduce the risk that it will move into the deeper layers of skin.
Doctors may prescribe oral antibiotics and/or antibiotic ointments. In some cases, the antibiotic ointment alone may be all that is needed. The pediatrician will give you specific instructions for home care, such as keeping the child’s fingernails short to prevent scratching, cleansing methods, and covering the affected areas with gauze bandages if possible.