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Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection. Usually found in children, it’s occasionally present in adults. While the skin infection can go away on its own in about five weeks, leaving it alone can also cause it to get even worse as the infection passes into your second layer of skin and becomes echthyma.
Impetigo looks like cold sores but the difference is that it spreads and gets bigger over time. Non-bullous impetigo, which is the one that I had, starts out with blisters that eventually pop and then crust over.
It took about 2-3 weeks for my impetigo to fully heal with no scabs left.
I caught impetigo during a trip from Las Vegas. The itching started during my flight back to Los Angeles. The blisters started off as skin-colored. I had never heard of impetigo before so I didn’t think much of the blisters. I actually couldn’t even notice them at first, so I scratched them. By day 3, the patch had started and it was noticeably itchy, noticeably painful and noticeably ugly.
I thought it was a cold sore even though I had never had one before. The abreva further irritated my impetigo and putting vaseline on it irritated it too. So… the infection was really bad by the time I got to the doctor. It had spread in three different spots and ‘angry’ is the perfect word to describe it.
The Lord came through for me though. My doctor’s office is usually booked pretty full in advance, especially the 7:30am time slot. Fortunately, I could get a 7:30am appointment in just a few days.
I went to the doctor in time and was able to get a prescription for topical antibiotics and oral antibiotics before it got worse. By the time I got to the doctor’s office, the skin under my lower lip had broken out into crusty sores that my mom even hurt to look at.
My doctor examined my proposed ‘cold sore’ and said, “I am pretty sure this is impetigo. I’ve seen enough of it to recognize it.”
The process of healing from impetigo hasn’t been fun. I would research on the internet for information and find a lot of it lacking. I didn’t get to ask my first doctor all the questions that I had, so I also used Dr. Phil’s Doctor on Demand to connect with a doctor in my local area. She was very helpful and provided a lot of great information.
I’m sure that if I hadn’t seen the doctor as early as I did, it would have gotten worse. On the other hand, if I had gone earlier, the infection would have been very minor. The biggest lesson I learned from this is to go to the doctor. I usually delay going to the doctor as much as I can, but this experience showed me that I need to take care of myself and that means getting medical help when I need it.
FAQs I had:
Please be reminded that this is just my personal experience. I am not a doctor.
How Did I Catch Impetigo?
When I asked my doctor how I caught impetigo, she shrugged and said that it was everywhere. She said maybe I had a cut on my chin and that was how the bacteria got in. My research also showed me that impetigo can be spread through direct contact. It could’ve been a towel napkin I used at the buffet, the blankets that I slept on in the hotel or the towels I used. It could’ve been anything, really.
I also should have been more careful about washing my hands and picking my face. I’ve been blessed with clear skin all of my life, but I pick at my face when I’m nervous so that’s probably how I got the bacteria on my skin.
Will impetigo scar?
Impetigo usually doesn’t scar. The second doctor told me that since I usually don’t scar from injuries or bug bites, this probably won’t scar either.
While impetigo heals usually without any scarring, ecthyma is more prone to leaving scars and takes longer to heal as it basically creates an ulcer in your skin. That’s why you should really go to the doctor. If I could turn back time, I might have actually used Doctor on Demand first so that I could get a prescription.
When will the scabs go away/how will I know that impetigo is healing?
After the antibiotics took care of the infection, a process that took about seven days, my skin started to heal. When your wound scabs, it’s usually to protect that wound from infection as your body starts making new skin. The scabs will take about 1-3 weeks to fully leave, depending on the severity in my opinion.
My scabs kept falling off and then growing back. This means that the wound is still healing. You can tell your wound is healing as the color changes from red to pink and the scabs become smaller. If you see new blisters appearing, this might mean your antibiotics aren’t working and you should go back to your doctor before the infection gets worse.
How can I tell the difference between a cold sore and impetigo?
Impetigo usually spreads in multiple places. When the scab of my impetigo fell off, it revealed even more blisters. Basically, it gets a lot worse before it gets better.
My first doctor took a look at my extremely angry impetigo and said, “If this were a cold sore, it would not be this inflamed at this time.”
Cold sores usually heal more quickly than impetigo, she said.
If your cold sore isn’t getting better in about 7 days and it keeps spreading around with new blisters popping up, then it just might be impetigo.
What should I do about aftercare for impetigo? Should I wash the scabs off?
My first doctor prescribed me oral antibiotics and topical antibiotics.
My second doctor suggested that I gently soak my scabs in warm water and clean the affected area each day. She said that the ointment would help with scarring as well.
Keep the affected area clean and follow the instructions for your antibiotics.
Some online sites suggested washing the scabs away. For me, I found that washing some of the scabs away would really hurt so I would only wash off the ones that were ‘loose’. If there were new scabs that hurt to touch, I would just leave it alone.
Why did I make this post?
I caught impetigo about two weeks before I was set to travel to China. I remember feeling the feeling of fear and insecurity when the infection was at its worst and even when it was healing. Impetigo, thankfully, is an easily curable infection but it’s certainly not pretty to look at. This post is meant to help others out there who are going through the same thing, or who aren’t sure what’s happening to their skin.
It is not meant to substitute for medical advice, and if there’s one thing I stress in this post, it’s going to the doctor because a bacterial infection on your skin is obviously very serious.
Interesting fact: During my impetigo, I binged on America’s Next Top Model because I needed to stay in the house while the infection was contagious. Michelle on Cycle 3 caught impetigo too. I recognized it before she did, haha. That moment actually put a soft spot in my heart for Michelle… catching impetigo while on a national television show for modeling is just not fun. The other contestants thought it was a flesh-eating virus and got all scared. In the words of Tiffany’s grandma, “grow up and read a book, girls!”
I feel you, Michelle.