Impetigo is a contagious skin infection caused by either the staphylococcus aureus, or streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. Both types of bacteria normally exist harmlessly on human skin. The infection generally results from a cut or wound on the skin such as a scrape, insect bite or dermatitis. About 30% of all impetigo cases involve adults. Impetigo is extremely contagious - if you touch the affected area, you can spread the infection to other parts of the body.  A healthy person can also contract the infection by touching contaminated items such as towels and bed sheets.

Impetigo generally clears up on its own within a few of weeks. However, you should always let your doctor evaluate your condition.  The doctor may decide to prescribe an antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics in moderate or severe cases.

There are two types of impetigo:

Non-bullous impetigo Impetigo contagiosa) - will cause painless, red sores, usually around the nose and mouth. These sores ooze fluid, resulting in a yellow-brown crust.  The sores may also be very itchy.  The crusts will dry, and flake off leaving a red mark on the skin.  Once these red marks heal they generally do not scar. 

Bullous impetigo - generally affects babies and children under the age of two. Fever and swollen glands may also be present.  Bullous impetigo causes painless, fluid-filled blisters on the trunk, legs and arms. The affected skin can be red and itchy. These blisters will burst and form a yellow crust on the skin.  Once these crusts heal, they generally do not scar.

The following are easy precautions you can take to help prevent the spread of the infection:

Wash affected areas with mild soap and water.
Cover the area lightly with gauze.
Avoid touching the sores.
Wash hands with soap often.
Wash clothes, bedding, and towels daily.
Avoid skin contact with others until you are no longer contagious.

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