Impetigo vs Herpes – Differences & Treatment

Find out what are the differences between impetigo and herpes:


Impetigo is a common skin infection that is caused by bacteria. It most likely affects children aged 2 to 5 years, but it can happen at any age.

An estimated 3 percent of children up to 4 years old and 2 percent of children who are between 5 to 14 years old get the infection every year.

According to statistics, the prevalence of impetigo is around 163 million children worldwide.

This skin infection is not usually serious and it improves within about 7 days of treatment or within several weeks without treatment.


Infection with the herpes simplex virus can be caused by either herpes simplex virus type 1 or herpes simplex virus type 2.

HSV-1 causes oral herpes, whereas both HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause genital herpes.

HSV-1 is common in children, and approximately 90% of children in the United States become infected with it.

On the other hand, HSV-2 is typically spread by sexual contact with an infected person.



It appears as a rash which may occur anywhere on the body, however, it usually affects the face and other exposed areas.

The rash is occasionally mildly painful and is itchy.

The margins of the rash are fairly sharp. In addition, the rash may have a honey-colored crust.


Oral herpes causes sores on the lips or around the mouth — called fever blisters or cold sores.

Symptoms of genital herpes include:

  • tender lumps in the groin;
  • vaginal discharge;
  • painful urination;
  • itching;
  • painful sores in the anus, buttocks, genital area, or thighs.



Complications of this skin infection include:

  • scarring – the ulcers can leave scars;
  • post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis – it is a kidney disease which develops rarely about 10 days after the infection;
  • cellulitis – it is a bacterial infection that affects the deeper layers of skin. Untreated, cellulitis can quickly become life-threatening.


Rarely, a woman with genital herpes may infect her baby during childbirth.

This may lead to mental retardation and blindness.



The infection is caused by one of two bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes.

Once you have been exposed to the bacteria, it can take about 4 days for the rash to appear.

The most common way to get the bacterium is when you are in contact with someone who already has the skin infection.

It can happen via skin-to-skin contact or by clothing, bedding, and towels.

The infection stops being contagious:

  • when the patches dry out and crust over;
  • 48 hours after you start using the medications.


It is typically spread by contact with blisters.

But, individuals with genital herpes can get the virus from the genital area even without a blister being present, especially if they practice unprotected sexual intercourse.

Pregnant women with genital herpes may pass the infection to their unborn children during childbirth.

Risk Factors


Children can be more likely to develop the infection when their skin is already irritated by:

  • cuts or scrapes;
  • insect bites;
  • poison ivy;
  • eczema.

Impetigo infection is more common in summer. In addition, the infection is more common where people live in confined environments, like – army barracks.

Sports that involve skin-to-skin contact, such as football and wrestling, increase the chance of having the infection.

Lastly, people with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of developing a skin infection.


People with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of contracting herpes.



Nonbullous Impetigo – it can cause one sore or many sores over the body. It is the most common form, and an estimated 70% percent of cases have this type of impetigo.

It is caused by two types of bacteria – streptococci or staphylococci. Recently, methicillin-resistant S aureus is an increasing cause of the infection.

Bullous Impetigo – it is less common and is only caused by staphylococci. The first skin lesions usually appear on the trunk, neck, or in the diaper region.

Ecthyma – it is a more serious type of impetigo, that penetrates more deeply into the skin. It most commonly affects thighs, legs, buttocks, ankles, and feet. It is usually associated with Group A Streptococcus.

This skin infection may also be classed as primary or secondary:

  • primary impetigo – it usually affects exposed areas like the hands and face;
  • secondary impetigo – it usually affects the skin, which is ”broken” by psoriasis or eczema.


There are two types:

  • HHV1 – it is commonly the cause of cold sores around the mouth;
  • HHV2 – it typically causes genital herpes.


The diagnosis of impetigo is made clinically, however, rarely, a culture may be useful.

The diagnosis of herpes is based on your symptoms, your sexual history, and the results of your physical examination. Also, cultures are done to confirm the diagnosis.



This skin infection is not serious and will clear up without medical treatment after 2 to 3 weeks. An OTC antibiotic ointment can be applied after washing the skin three times per day.

After starting the treatment, it takes 48 to 72 hours for the rash to respond to the medications.

Liquid medicines or antibiotic tablets are occasionally required.

Olive oil, tea tree essential oil, Manuka honey, and coconut oil have been said to relieve symptoms of this infection.

Tip – to keep the bacteria from spreading, do not touch any part of the body after you have touched an area with the infection.


Although there is no cure, there are a few antiviral medicines that can reduce the duration and severity of the outbreaks.

Tip – individuals must be sure to wash their hands after using antiviral medicines.

Impetigo vs Herpes – Differences

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection that is characterized by red sores on the face, particularly around the mouth and nose. Ii accounts for about 10 percent of skin problems observed in pediatric clinics. 

It gets better in 7 to 10 days if you get medical treatment. However, it heals without scarring, even without medicines.

If your child has impetigo:

  • make sure your child takes all the medication prescribed by your healthcare provider;
  • keep the sores covered with a dressing;
  • keep your child home from school or childcare until he has taken the antibiotic for at least one full day;
  • don’t share towels or facecloths among family members;
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Herpes simplex virus is a member of the herpesviridae family. HSV-1 is transmitted orally and is responsible for cold sores and fever blisters, whereas HSV-2 is transmitted sexually and causes genital herpes. HSV-1 may also cause genital herpes.

Once infected, the herpes simplex virus can reactivate from latent infection in regional sensory nerves.


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