Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android. Learn more here!

Patient Stories

A young boy presented to the office with a 3-day history of an untreated skin infection on his ear (Figure 99-1). His mother states that he has had white spots on his face for the past year but does not know how the ear infection started. The clinician noted honey crusts and purulent drainage from the lower pinna and pityriasis alba on the face. The child was not febrile and was behaving normally. Oral cephalexin was prescribed for the impetigo and 1 percent hydrocortisone ointment was given for the p. alba. Washing and hygiene issues were discussed to avoid spreading the infection within the household. During the 1-week follow-up appointment the impetigo was gone and the p. alba was improving.

An 11-year-old-child presented with a 5-day history of a skin lesion that started after a hiking trip (Figure 99-2). This episode of bullous impetigo was found to be secondary to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The lesion was rapidly progressive and was developing a surrounding cellulitis. She was admitted to a hospital and treated with intravenous clindamycin with good results.1


Typical honey-crusted plaque on the ear of young boy with impetigo. (Used with permission from Richard P. Usatine, MD.)


Bullous impetigo secondary to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on the leg of an 11-year-old child. Note the surrounding cellulitis. (With permission from Studdiford J, Stonehouse A. Bullous eruption on the posterior thigh 1. J Fam Pract. 2005;54:1041-1044. Reproduced with permission from Frontline Medical Communications.)


Impetigo is the most superficial of bacterial skin infections. It causes honey crusts, bullae, and erosions.


  • Most frequent in children ages 2 to 6 years, but it can be seen in patients of any age.

  • Common among homeless people living on the streets.

    • Seen often in developing countries in persons living without easy access to clean water and soap.

  • Contagious and can be spread within a household.

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Impetigo is caused by S. aureus and/or group A β-hemolytic Streptococcus (GABHS).

  • Bullous impetigo is almost always caused by S. aureus and is less common than the typical crusted impetigo.

  • Impetigo may occur after minor skin injury, such as an insect bite, abrasion, or dermatitis.


Clinical Features


Widespread impetigo with honey-crusted erythematous lesions on the back ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.