Topical and oral antibiotics are the most common recommendation for the treatment of impetigo. Topical antibiotics (such as mupirocin, retapamulin, and tetracycline) are typically recommended when the skin infection is less severe, while oral medications (such as dicloxacillin, cephalexin, and clindamycin) are usually used when the infection is more widespread or deep.
Impetigo is a common skin infection caused by bacteria. Once a healthcare provider has diagnosed it, the treatment he or she recommends will vary, depending on:
- The type of impetigo
- Its severity
- Where the infection is located
- How widespread the infection is.
Antibiotic medicines are the mainstay for treating impetigo. They can either be applied to the skin (as a cream or ointment) or taken by mouth.
Antibiotics applied directly to the skin (known as topical antibiotics) are used when impetigo is less severe. Mupirocin (Bactroban®) is the antibiotic most often recommended. Other choices can include retapamulin (Altabax®) or tetracycline.
To apply these medicines, the area should be cleaned gently with warm, soapy water and then patted dry. After the affected area is dry, a thin layer of medicine is applied and then rubbed into the skin.
Hydrogen peroxide cream may be recommended as an alternative to topical antibiotics. However, research has shown that over-the-counter (OTC) options, such as Neosporin® (bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B), may not be effective. They can also irritate the skin that is affected by impetigo.
For infections that are more widespread or deep, an antibiotic taken by mouth may be prescribed. Dicloxacillin, cephalexin, and clindamycin are examples of oral antibiotics used to treat impetigo.