Impetigo (school sores)

Impetigo (you say, im-pa-ty-go), also known as school sores, is a common skin infection caused by bacteria. The infection causes blisters on exposed parts of body, such as hands and face, especially around the nose and mouth. The blisters burst and turn into a sore with a yellow crust.


Impetigo is a common skin infection that causes blisters, often on the face around the nose or mouth, but they can be anywhere on the body where the skin has been damaged in some way, eg. cuts or scrapes.

Impetigo sores are crusty-looking and they are very contagious. That means they can be spread easily to other parts of your own body or to other people by touching.

Time off from kura or school

Keep your child home from school, kindergarten or daycare until one day after the start of treatment. Make sure the dressings completely cover their sores.

Related information

Caring for your child’s skin condition

The Kidshealth website has information on impetigo and what to do if your child has it.

DermNet New Zealand Trust’s website has information on impetigo, including pictures of the sores.

Health Navigator 
The Health Navigator NZ website has information on Impetigo.


Impetigo causes blisters, often on the face, or around the nose or mouth, but they can be anywhere on the body.

The blister bursts and the watery stuff from the blister dries and makes a yellowy crust. Other blisters appear around it, and it can be very itchy.

When the scab dries up, it will fall off and the skin underneath will look normal after a few days.


  • You may get an antiseptic cream or antibiotic medicine from your doctor - you may need both. 
  • School sores should clear up in a few days with treatment. It is very important to take antibiotics every day until they are finished, even if the sores seem to have healed. The antibiotics need to keep killing the infection in the body, even if the skin has healed.
  • The crusty bits need to come off, but don’t pick at them.  Wash the sores gently with warm water and a soft cloth and the crust will come away when it is ready. Wash the cloth after use.
  • Try to prevent scratching the sores as much as possible; cutting fingernails can help prevent damage and infection from scratching.
  • Cover sores with a watertight dressing to prevent the infected fluid and crusts from spreading
  • Make sure you wash hands with soap often, and dry them thoroughly.

What to do if impetigo gets worse

You need to go back to the doctor if any of these things happen:

  • sores last more than a week
  • sores become red or swollen
  • sores have pus in them
  • your child has a fever.

The infection may have spread to other parts of the body or blood. Your child may need blood tests and antibiotics.

Call Healthline 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what you should do.


The following actions may reduce the risk of school sores:

  • Take a daily bath or shower with soap and water.
  • Practise good hygiene - wash hands with soap regularly.
  • Put all used tissues and dressings in a rubbish bin with a lid.
  • Cut fingernails short and keep them clean.
  • Thoroughly wash grazes or cuts.
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