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Impetigo-the very word sounds unpleasant. It comes from the Latin impetere, which means “to attack.” Having impetigo certainly feels like your skin is under attack.

Impetigo is a highly contagious superficial skin disease caused by bacteria. It most often strikes children, older adults, and people with dermatitis or weakened immune systems, but it can affect anyone of any age. Cuts or insect bites can trigger impetigo. Some people find they are more prone to developing impetigo and may have recurrent or persistent outbreaks.

Impetigo starts as small, red, itchy patches of otherwise normal-looking skin. Within a day or two, the affected patches of skin develop into pus-filled blisters that are almost impossible not to touch. Many sufferers do touch the sores at this point-before understanding what they are or knowing they are contagious-and end up transferring the infection to other parts of their skin or even to other people. The first blisters will gradually become crusty and continue to weep a sticky fluid as other blisters develop around them or pop up elsewhere.

While people with impetigo don't usually experience any pain or feel unwell, the sores look unsightly and can be itchy. An impetigo infection is an unpleasant experience, especially when the blisters are on your face, are very obvious, and can't be covered with make-up or plasters. Swollen, tender lymph nodes near the site of the rash are fairly common as your immune system struggles to fight off the infection. Many people who experience impetigo worry that it will leave scars, but the blisters only affect the very top layer of skin and usually heal well.

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